SILVER SPRING, Md. (AP) — A Maryland man who was shot and killed by police was armed with a rifle and ignored commands to show his hands and get on the ground when officers entered his home, police said Tuesday.
The Montgomery County Police Department’s statement on an officer’s fatal shooting of 21-year-old Duncan Socrates Lemp contradicts an eyewitness account cited by an attorney for Lemp’s family. The eyewitness said Lemp was asleep in his bedroom when police opened fire from outside his house in Potomac, Maryland, a suburb of Washington D.C., the family’s attorney, Rene Sandler, said last Friday.
Police disputed that account. The department says tactical unit officers who entered Lemp’s home around 4:30 a.m. last Thursday to serve a search warrant announced themselves as police and gave Lemp “multiple orders” to show his hands and comply with commands to get on the ground.
“Lemp refused to comply with the officer’s commands and proceeded towards the interior bedroom door where other officers were located,” the police statement says. “Upon entrance by officers into the Lemp’s bedroom, Lemp was found to be in possession of a rifle and was located directly in front of the interior bedroom entrance door.”
The department’s statement does not specify when Lemp was fatally shot.
Attorneys for Lemp’s family said in a statement Tuesday that the police department’s accounts of the shootings “are inconsistent with the physical evidence and eyewitness accounts from those who survived this tragedy.” Their statement says officers “initiated” gunfire and flash bangs through Duncan Lemp’s bedroom window in the front of the house.
“Multiple eyewitnesses told investigators that the police only forced entry into the home after Duncan was shot,” the lawyers’ statement says. “According to those eyewitness, the police had no contact with any family members until after Duncan was shot.”
They urged police to release body camera video and audio and called for a different law-enforcement agency to conduct an independent investigation.
Police statements haven’t addressed whether there are any body camera videos of the shooting. A department spokesman didn’t respond to a telephone call and text message seeking comment.
Authorities found a device designed as a “booby trap” affixed to the inside frame of Lemp’s bedroom door, police said. The device was intended to fire a shotgun shell at anyone entering the door, according to police.
“After officers entered the bedroom, the other occupant of the room warned the officers to be careful of the device rigged to the exterior door. Statements from other occupants of the residence indicated they were aware of the dangerous device on the door,” police said.
Detectives obtained a “no-knock” warrant to search the home Lemp shared with his parents and 19-year-old brother after receiving an anonymous tip that Lemp was illegally possessing firearms, police said. Lemp had a criminal record as a juvenile that made it illegal for him to legally possess or buy firearms in Maryland until he turned 30, according to police.
The “other occupant” in Lemp’s bedroom indicated that he slept with a rifle every night, police said.
“Contrary to some information reported to the media, the same occupant also indicated that Lemp was out of the bed and standing directly in front of the interior bedroom door at the time the officers made entry into the bedroom,” the police statement says.
Police detectives recovered three rifles and two handguns from the home.
The officer who shot Lemp was placed on administrative leave, a standard procedure after police shootings.
Lemp’s relatives said the search warrant does not mention any “imminent threat” to law enforcement or the public.
“Any attempt by the police to shift responsibility onto Duncan or his family, who were sleeping when the police fired shots into their home, is not supported by the facts,” the family said in a statement released by their lawyers last Friday.
Sandler said the family believes police fired gunshots, not a flashbang or other projectile, from outside the home, including through Lemp’s bedroom window, while he and his girlfriend were sleeping. Nobody in the home heard any warnings or commands before police opened fire, she said.
“There is no warrant or other justification that would ever allow for that unless there is an imminent threat, which there was not,” Sandler said.
Lemp was white, according to Sandler. She did not know the race of the unidentified officer involved in the shooting because she said the officers were wearing masks.
“We believe that the body camera footage and other forensic evidence from this event will support what Duncan’s family already knows, that he was murdered,” the family’s statement says.