“Alright, let’s wake him up” were the words that began a two-minute vehicle pursuit up I-270 North that led to the death of Lawrence White, 37, of Washington, D.C. on May 20.
The Maryland Office of the Attorney General released body camera and dashboard camera footage on Tuesday of the fatal pursuit of White.
Around 5 a.m. on May 20, Montgomery County Police received a call that a man was unresponsive in his vehicle in the area of Rockledge Drive in North Bethesda, according to a press release from the Maryland Attorney General’s Office.
Body camera footage shows about five officers approaching the car and shining their flashlights into the window. One of the officers immediately notices a gun on White’s lap. From that moment, officers continuously yell “County police, put your hands up!”
After that persists for a few minutes, Sgt. Brett Trahan suggests to the other officers they need to wake up White and they repeatedly knock on the vehicle’s windows.
White appears to wake up as the officers’ litany of commands intensify. Officers attempted to secure his car in place, but before they can, White manages to squeeze through the space between two police cars blocking him and speeds away.
White drives northbound on I-270, and multiple officers, including Officers Quintin Bowles, Jonathan Johnson and Trahan, pursue him in their police vehicles. The chase lasted for about two minutes, according to the release. The footage showed a handful of other cars driving past the pursuit.
Johnson can be heard in the body camera footage requesting a helicopter to assist in the pursuit.
Suddenly, White’s car slams into the barrier on the right side of the road, and his car spins out of control. His vehicle crashed in the northbound I-270 express lanes just south of Route 28, according to the release.
As shown on his car’s dashboard camera, Bowles yells “crash, crash, crash” into the police intercom, scrambling to get out of his vehicle.
Another officer who is near White’s vehicle after the crash can be heard yelling: “put your f—ing hands up.”
As Bowles gets closer to White’s car, his body camera shows that the back of the car is completely wrecked.
Footage from Trahan’s body camera shows officers talking about how White was ejected from his car. It is blurred in the video, but it is still evident that White is laying in the middle of the road. An officer started performing CPR.
After that, the camera footage cuts out.
According to the Montgomery County Police Department policy, once an officer’s body worn camera has been activated, “they must continue to record until:
1. The officer has left the scene and anticipates no further involvement in the event.
2. A supervisor has authorized that a recording may cease.
3. The officer is no longer engaged in a related investigative or enforcement activity
4. The event has concluded. An event will be deemed “concluded” when:
a. All arrests have been made and arrestees have been transported and released from custody.
b. All witnesses and victims have been interviewed.
c. The continued recording will not serve to obtain additional evidence; and
d. No further law enforcement action is likely to occur.” White was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the release.
People in another vehicle that was struck by White’s car during the crash were transported to a nearby hospital with minor injuries, the release said.
Typically, the Office of the Attorney General’s Independent Investigations Division releases body-worn camera and dashboard camera footage to the public within 14 days of an incident. However, in this case, the release of the footage was delayed to allow investigators to conduct witness interviews, according to a Tuesday news release.
Under Maryland law, effective October 2021, the Office of Attorney General is required to investigate all police-involved fatalities in the state, the release said.
According to the department’s policy, vehicular pursuits are only authorized in specific circumstances. First, police can pursue a suspect when they have committed a felony, or the officer has “reason to believe” a felony will occur or has occurred.
Also, they can pursue someone if they are driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics or if they were involved in a hit-and-run or personal injury collision where the officer has “reasonable cause to believe serious injury has occurred.”
Also, according to department policy, The Piranha, an approved tire-deflating device, can be used to prevent a pursuit from occurring. However, only “those volunteer officers successfully trained in the use of the tire-deflating devices will be issued or authorized to deploy the approved devices.” The Independent Investigations Division and the Maryland State Police Crash Team continue to investigate the circumstances of this fatal pursuit, according to the release.