Body-cam footage released August 18, 2021, by the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) shows an officer repeatedly punching a Black drug suspect in the face while he and two fellow officers restrained the man, from whom they recovered a loaded gun.
The suspect, 23-year-old Kinman Johnson, is Black. The officer throwing the punches, John Sullivan, is white. He was suspended along with the other two cops by MPD Chief Robert J. Contee III after an independent journalist’s video of the August 8 incident went viral on social media.
“This is not the way we train our members to get illegal firearms off the streets,” said Contee, who turned the matter over to the U.S. Attorney’s Office to decide whether to charge any of the officers involved.
The incident unfolded after they witnessed what they suspected was a drug hand-off involving Johnson. The three officers then moved to apprehend and arrest the suspect, grappling with him to restrain him after noticing his gun.
“You’re about to get dropped,” one officer can be heard on video warning Johnson.
Another warned that they might use OC spray, an irritant, against him.
During the melee, Sullivan threw most of the punches at Johnson. But a second officer also took at least one swing at him. The suspect and a second man apprehended that day by Sullivan—for allegedly throwing a lawn chair and soda bottles at the officers—were later released from custody. City prosecutors declined to charge either one of them with a crime.
As for Sullivan, an eight-year MPD veteran, no charges had been filed against him as of August 25, 2021. Police union chairman Greg Pemberton defended the officers, saying their response was not out of line because Johnson had a gun which “was unsecured and a danger to the police officers, the suspect and anybody nearby.”
Meanwhile, Johnson has retained an attorney, Bakari Sellers, who decried the officers’ actions as “police brutality” and called for Sullivan’s firing.
The incident in the Anacostia neighborhood, a predominantly Black community, sparked an immediate outcry from residents. Some of the residents then met with Contee at the invitation of City Council Member Trayon White, Sr. (D-Ward 8).
The meeting lasted several hours as about 25 residents aired grievances with the Chief over what they considered heavy-handed policing in their neighborhood.
Source: Washington Post
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