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An internal review released by the Metropolitan Police Department today finds that officers’ use of force to detain teenagers Jason Goolsby and Michael Brown was appropriate.
The 55-page, partially redacted review, as first reported by the Washington Post, concludes that the officers’ stop-and-frisk complied with MPD policy and was “reasonably necessary to bring [the] situation under control.” Officers detained the teens after responding to a fear of robbery call at a CitiBank on Pennsylvania Avenue SE on Oct. 12; part of the incident was recorded by Brown and went viral on social media.
A march in Goolsby’s name was held the day after the incident became public. Attorneys for the pair organized a press conference two days later, saying Goolsby and Brown were detained because they are black. (The firm representing them declined to comment to the Post on the report today, pending review.)
“Officers assigned to the First District have been aware of the recent increase in robberies throughout their police district and knew the importance of making contact or stopping an individuals that may be related to these types of crimes,” the report reads. “All witnesses located corroborated that the officers did not appear to use any force that appeared unnecessary and heard the officers using loud commands to have the subjects comply with their order. Both [Goolsby and Brown] were stopped by officers for a period not to have exceeded 15 [to] 20 minutes [based on] radio transmissions of the event, [and various] testimon[ies].”
Neither Goolsby nor Brown were charged with a crime after being detained; their lawyers have said the detention lasted for up to two hours without either teenager receiving a clear explanation from the officers as to why they were being held.
Leading up to their detention, the report states, Goolsby attempted to flee on foot and reached into a backpack he was carrying; this made the officers fear he might have been searching for a weapon. “At no time did [the pursuing officer] attempt to strike or steer his vehicle towards any of the running subjects,” the review states. Goolsby’s attorneys have said that he “perceived [a police car] was trying to run him over,” and that he “feared for his life” during the pursuit in Capitol Hill.
Police Chief Cathy Lanier held a press conference on the review this afternoon, where, according to reporters present, she said the officers who responded to a woman’s call voicing concerns over “suspicious” activity acted reasonably:
Lanier says both police and people they confront have legitimate anxieties. She urges officers to explain what they are doing
— Peter Hermann (@phscoop) November 25, 2015
“I can’t be in the Officer’s head and I can’t be in the young man’s head.” – @DCPoliceDept Chief Lanier on #JusticeForJason report
— ABC7News (@ABC7News) November 25, 2015
“I think their reactions were perfectly appropriate. That’s why it’s so difficult when you see small snippets of video.” – Chief Lanier
— ABC7News (@ABC7News) November 25, 2015
“I just don’t want it to happen again,” Goolsby told reporters and other observers during a press conference at the University of the District of Columbia law school last month, days after the incident. “I want justice.”
Update 6:10 p.m.: In an email to City Desk, Goolsby’s and Brown’s attorney Peter C. Grenier contests the MPD’s account that the former ever reached for his backpack, which he says contained only a laptop, a headphones-case, schoolwork, keys, pens, and a pencil. “Not surprisingly, the MPD report is nothing more than a whitewash, and I mean that in literally every sense of the word,” Grenier writes, noting that he has not yet reviewed the report “with a fine-toothed comb.” He adds that none of the “uninvolved witnesses” cited in the report mentioned anything about Goolsby reaching into his backpack—an action alleged by a responding officer that Grenier says amounts to “pure fabrication.” The attorney goes on to reiterate that the teenagers were detained for “no other reason than that they are black,” and that an appended transcript of the 911 call reporting “suspicious” behavior by Goolsby, Brown, and a third male does not justify what happened to the pair.
“It is beyond dispute that Mr. Goolsby and Mr. Brown were innocent,” Grenier writes. “I can only say that it continues to be a sad day for the District of Columbia, when the threat of a lawsuit over an individual’s deprivation of his civil rights causes the MPD to abandon ITS moral compass and write a narrative to excuse their egregious behavior. Shame on them.”
Photo by Darrow Montgomery