Earlier this month, Montgomery County police released body-camera footage from a fatal officer-involved shooting near downtown Silver Spring, marking the first time the department had released such video since officers began wearing the cameras in 2015.
In the weeks since its release, the recording has continued to raise questions among elected leaders, activists and community members as they try to understand how the June 11 encounter in a neighborhood off Sligo Creek Parkway between Robert White, 41, and officer Anand Badgujar escalated from an exchange of words to a burst of gunfire. Last week, community members and public officials demanded answers from county police and State’s Attorney John McCarthy during a meeting lasting more than two-and-a-half hours at the Silver Spring Civic Center.
Prosecutors have cleared Badgujar of criminal wrongdoing, but an internal police investigation is underway to determine whether the officer followed agency protocols during the interaction.
After watching the video, criminal justice reform advocates and White’s friends say Badgujar could have done more to defuse the situation and do not believe it had to end in White’s death. They also question Badgujar’s initial decision to stop White, who was unarmed and walking along the neighborhood streets he had known from childhood.
Montgomery County police Chief Tom Manger said at the community meeting last week in Silver Spring that Badgujar had not yet been interviewed as part of an internal affairs investigation, which could not begin until the criminal probe by prosecutors had been completed. Badgujar will be compelled to answer questions during the internal affairs investigation, Manger said.
The footage posted by the department to YouTube includes segments of video from Badgujar and a 30-second segment of video from a backup officer who arrived just before the shots were fired.
The 5:02 video includes slowed-down portions of footage from both officers just before the shooting occurred. There is no audio on the backup officer’s camera footage.
Here is breakdown of the video from start to finish and corresponding comments from people who view the same footage in very different ways:
:38 At this point in the video posted by Montgomery County police to YouTube, Badgujar’s body camera footage begins.
Police have previously said that Badgujar had finished responding to a different call in the area when he spotted White and began investigating him as a suspicious person. Capt. Paul Starks, a police spokesman, said the video started when Badgujar turned on his camera, just as he was approaching White.
Fahad Siddiqui, a friend and neighbor of White and his family, said he doesn’t believe that’s what happened. The officer is away from his police cruiser and in the middle of an interaction with White when the footage first begins, Siddiqui said.
Badgujar’s attorney, Morgan Blackledge, said by the time the recording began, the officer had already once asked White to stop. White caught the officer’s attention because of a large rip on the back of his black jacket, and Blackledge said Badgujar became suspicious when White abruptly veered off his course toward a footpath, shoved his right hand into his pocket and raised his right shoulder.
White picked up his pace and looked back at Badgujar while walking away, the attorney said. These movements led the officer to suspect that White was carrying a weapon. White was, in fact, unarmed.
In addition to watching the body-camera video, Blackledge said she’d reviewed Badgujar’s communications with backup officers, in which he explained why he thought White might be armed.
Community activists and White’s friends believe race was a factor in Badgujar’s suspicions that White was a danger, an idea that Blackledge refutes.
She said White’s actions “are the indicia of being armed.”
“Had it been a white person or an Indian person or someone of some other descent displaying the same behavior, he would’ve stopped them, too,” she said of Badgujar, who is of Indian descent.
The explanation offered by the officer’s attorney has been unsatisfactory to White’s friends and sister, Irene Thompson.
“Is it illegal to walk the streets with a torn shirt? Is it illegal to walk with your hands in your pockets?” Thompson said earlier this month during a march and candlelight vigil for her brother.
:39 Badgujar’s camera shows the officer walking through a wooded walkway between Three Oaks Drive and Melbourne Avenue. White, who lived nearby on Dearborn Avenue, is seen walking in the road a short distance ahead.
White was a familiar face to many Silver Spring residents because he’d regularly take long walks through the neighborhoods surrounding his home. His friend, Alex Villars, said people accustomed to seeing White knew he wasn’t a threat. By contrast, the officer viewed White with suspicion, he noted.
“Where’s the community policing? That familiarity with your community was definitely something lacking in this situation, specifically for this officer,” Villars has said.
Blackledge said Badgujar was not familiar with White.
1:00 Badgujar is first heard radioing in his location as Melbourne and Providence avenues. He then addresses White for the first time in the publicly released recordings.
“Hey big man, you need to stop,” the officer says, beginning to run toward White. A weapon is already drawn in Badgujar’s left hand, the video shows. Blackledge said Badgujar is left-handed.
Manger said last week that Badgujar was not carrying a Taser at the time.
1:04 “Do it, do it,” White shouts in response, running toward the officer. The officer runs on to a lawn to get away and White is next shown walking away.
1:10 Badgujar radios in to start priority units responding to his location. The camera faces away from White as Badgujar is running away from him. The video next shows White also on the lawn, coming toward Badgujar. The officer runs from side to side on the lawn. White’s position in relation to Badgujar is unclear.
1:21 White is shown walking back toward the walkway, as Badgujar jogs behind him. Badgujar’s holds pepper spray in his right hand, pointed at White.
1:25 White and the officer are a few strides away from one another. White calls Badgujar a “bitch ass.”
1:27 White uses his left arm to attempt to knock down Badgujar’s right arm, which still has pepper spray raised. In the video, Badgujar does not describe the use of force.
Manger said in an interview with Bethesda Beat last week that there is no departmental requirement that officers radio in about uses of force as they occur. “There’s no reason for them to have to do that,” Manger said. “… The backup officer was responding ‘Code 3.’ You could tell when he arrived he had his lights and sirens on. So he knew it was an urgent request for backup. He could sense that.”
1:28 White strikes Badgujar, coming into contact with the body camera. Pepper spray is seemingly deployed as White runs away back to the wooded walkway.
Blackledge said Badgujar used the pepper spray in an attempt to “defuse the situation.”
1:36 Badgujar is back on the radio, letting dispatchers know, ‘We’re going to be back over to, uh, Three Oaks.” Each time he uses the radio, Badgujar’s gloved hand obscures the camera view.
1:44 Badgujar is on the radio: “He’s got his hands in his pocket. Might be a suicide-by-cop-type thing.”
This comment was troubling to Villars, White’s friend.
“That kind of statement already kind of puts him in the mindset that, ‘I’m probably going to have to use lethal force,’ ” he said.
2:03 When White and Badgujar get back to the area of the officer’s squad car, a confrontation begins.
2:08 “Do it. Do it,” White says, as the two men are just feet away from each other near the squad car’s driver’s side door.
“Back up,” Badgujar shouts, as White continues to say “Do it,” and begins to move away.
It is around this time that Badgujar pulls out a baton.
2:15 Badgujar calls in a description. “It’s going to be a black male. Mid-age. Six foot. Blue jacket with a hoodie ripped in the back. Black shorts. Black sneakers,” Badgujar says, walking behind White along Three Oaks Drive. “He’s, uh, on foot back towards Manchester [Road].”
The officer is breathing heavily.
2:45 “Get in the car. Stop following me if you’re not going to do anything,” White turns and shouts at the officer, walking back in his direction.
2:48 Badgujar raises his gun with his left hand as White walks toward him. Badgujar is near the back of a resident’s SUV. Sirens can be heard in the background. As the officer approaches a parked car, he tells a woman leaning into the backseat, “Ma’m, get the baby.”
3:02 White is yelling and starts to walk away again. Badgujar follows him from a distance. “At this point, keeping space. He keeps reaching into his pocket,” Badgujar says, as White can be heard yelling in the background.
“Sir, I do not want to shoot you. I do not want to shoot you, sir,” Badgujar shouts back.
The officer shouts at a nearby woman to get into her car as another police car arrives with sirens on.
3:22 “Do it. Backup’s here now, do it,” White says, walking toward the officer.
“Sir, I don’t want to f—ing shoot you, bro,” Badgujar says.
Some community members have argued that the officer escalated the situation by drawing a weapon so early in the interaction, continuing to follow White even though White was growing increasingly agitated and alluding to the potential use of deadly force. In response to the video, these advocates have called for more police training in de-escalation tactics.
Blackledge said Badgujar has completed de-escalation training, both as a Montgomery County police officer and several years ago during his employment with the Baltimore City Police Department. He’d never before shot anyone, she said.
During the community meeting about the shooting last week, Jay Jimenez of the ACLU of Maryland, asked Raymond Crowel, chief of behavioral health and crisis services for Montgomery County, if the video showed de-escalation techniques that he would use in training officers.
“Of course not,” Crowel responded. “I mean, I think that is not what we would want to have happen.” Crowel said the video begins “very much in the midst of a confrontation.” At another point in the meeting, Crowel also noted the difficulty officers face in making split-second decisions about stepping back or using force to protect themselves.
3:32 Badgujar starts running back in White’s direction, as a backup officer’s squad car drives past.
“Do it,” White continues to shout as Badgujar runs past him and back to his squad car.
Badgujar turns off the car’s ignition before White begins running toward him.
3:50 White charges the officer, who backpedals away from his squad car.
3:53 White is struck by Badgujar’s baton, in the officer’s right hand, as White assaults the officer.
3:54 White is quickly shot as the video shows him reaching out with both arms toward the officer. Both men fall to the ground.
3:57 “Do it again,” White said, as he gets off the ground and heads back toward the officer. The backup officer arrives just as the confrontation nears its deadly end. An image on the backup officer’s camera captures White standing over the officer after the first shots had been fired.
The video then appears to show several shots, possibly 10, fired in three different bursts. The video immediately shuts off before anyone speaks after the shooting.
With the release of the video, community members and public officials have been able to ask more questions about police procedures and other public policies. State Del. David Moon (D-Takoma Park) said last week he wants to pursue a change in local policy about foot pursuits.
After officers in Sacramento, California, shot and killed Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man, the city’s police department adopted new policies to limit foot chases in risky situations. Under the new policy, implemented this month, officers will be asked to weigh their own safety, the safety of the public and the importance of apprehending the person before and during a pursuit.
During last week’s meeting, Manger said questions about community concerns—particularly why Badgujar pursued White in the first place, and questions about things he said, including calling White “bro” and “big man”—will be asked during the internal investigation. But much of what is explored during that investigation will not become public.
Under Maryland law, police internal investigations are personnel documents not subject to public release, even if a finding of fault is reached.
A map plotting the movements of Robert White and Officer Anand Badgujar in the lead-up to the shooting. Click the pins for more information about what happened in each approximate location.