2 Prince George’s County officers indicted in separate criminal charges

Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy announced Thursday that two county police officers have been indicted on charges in separate incidents in the Maryland county.

She also provided an update about a man who was shot and killed by multiple officers in September 2019.

Braveboy announced the two indictments at a news briefing with Tyrone Powers, a use-of-force expert the county had retained to investigate three separate incidents, two of which involved police use of force and another where an officer is accused of misrepresenting himself, resulting in theft.

Officer Bryant Strong was indicted on charges in a use-of-force incident in which he seriously injured 24-year-old Demonte Ward-Blake in a traffic stop on October 2019.

Ward-Blake’s family lawyer said that his client is paralyzed from the waist down from a broken vertebrate in his neck after Strong slammed him into the ground following a body search.

Strong was indicted by a grand jury on second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office.

The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 89 said it did not believe that Strong should have been indicted for his actions.

“FOP Lodge 89 was shocked to learn that Ofc. Strong was indicted by a Prince George’s County Grand Jury,” the lodge said in a statement. “We are confident that the evidence will show that his actions were fully justified and within policy.”

The grand jury also indicted Cpl. Luis Aponte on charges of scheme and theft under $10,000, and two counts of misconduct.

Aponte allegedly presented himself as a county police officer while working a second job at a county hospital while his police powers were suspended.

A third investigation into an incident where multiple officers shot and killed 49-year-old Leonard Shand found that the shooting was “justified,” though Braveboy said she was not satisfied with the response of the officers that day.

On Sept. 26, 2019, Shand charged at officers with a knife in each hand at The Mall at Prince George’s in Hyattsville. Ten officers fired at Shand as he charged, killing him.

An analysis of body-worn camera footage found that officers had attempted to defuse the situation with nonlethal methods — though not necessarily nonviolently.

According to Powers, in the course of trying to disarm Shand, officers tried to kick him and send him off balance, clipped him with a car, sicced a police dog on him, shot him with a shotgun loaded with a bean bag round and, finally, threw a flash bang grenade.

Shand apparently recognized the bean bag-loaded shotgun, and warned officers that if they shot him with it, he would charge.

The officers proceeded to shoot him with the bean bag round, at which point Shand charged with the two knives. At that point, 10 of the responding officers opened fire.

A grand jury decided not to indict the officers involved in Shand’s death.

“Please know that the grand jury’s decision not to indict, and the conclusions reached by the independent use-of-force expert, do not ease our collective grief,” Braveboy said. “Nor does it signal that the response of the officers that day was satisfactory.”

“We continue to mourn the loss of Mr. Shand and continue to uplift his family,” she said.

Powers said he requested all of the information related to the case and walked the scene of the shooting during his investigation. “There are problematic areas with the response and what occurred in this particular case, but the officers use of force was justified,” he said.

One of the things the Prince George’s County community wanted to know in regards to the Shand shooting was why so many officers had fired on him.

According to Powers, officers are trained to respond that way if they find themselves or another officer in threat of death or serious injury.

He said he recommended better crisis response communication, because it was clear that Shand was in distress and needed help. He said several officers attempted to de-escalate the situation by talking with Shand, but that it may have overwhelmed him further.

“With so many voices coming at one individual, at one particular time, who is already in a crisis situation, sometimes it can actually be counterproductive,” Powers said.

Powers’ full report on the officers’ use of force in the Shand shooting can be read here.

Zeke Hartner

Zeke Hartner is a digital writer/editor who has been with WTOP since 2017. He is a graduate of North Carolina State University’s Political Science program and an avid news junkie.

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