An unidentified man died in the front passenger seat of a police cruiser in Prince George’s County, Md., on Monday night—fatally shot by the officer driving the car. What’s not clear is what led the cop to shoot the handcuffed suspect in the first place.
NBC News, citing police spokesperson Christina Cotterman, reports that cops responded to reports about a driver striking multiple vehicles near Temple Hills. Md. Police say once they encountered the suspect, they believed he may have been under the influence of PCP. The man was arrested and placed in the front seat of the cop car (as is department policy, Cotterman told the Washington Post) as police waited for a drug recognition officer to meet them.
The suspect never met that officer. Independent witnesses told police they witnessed or heard a struggle break out in the car, followed by “multiple bangs,” Cpl. Kyndle Johnson told the Post.
The man died after being taken to the hospital. He has not been named by Prince George’s police because his family, as of this morning, had not been alerted of his death.
Cotterman told reporters at the scene of the shooting Monday night that police were at the “very beginning” of their investigation, one made all the more challenging because there’s no body-camera video of the fatal officer-involved shooting. Investigators are currently looking for surveillance cameras in the area to get a clearer idea of what happened that night.
The shooting wasn’t caught on body-camera video because the officer didn’t have one, Cotterman said. Investigators were looking for surveillance cameras in the area that may have recorded the shooting.
While the investigation is underway, it’s worth noting how terrifyingly familiar parts of this story are, a sure sign that a thing that shouldn’t be normalized, is. The cop, who’s expected to be named today at a press conference, was placed on administrative leave, as is routine in these cases. Meanwhile, the claim that the suspect smelled like PCP, a hallucinogenic that has a reputation for making its users violent, is reminiscent of several high-profile violent encounters between officers and black men, including Rodney King in Los Angeles, Laquan McDonald in Chicago, and Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Okla. Then, there’s the most important question of all—one that has been asked in many instances of police brutality—how viable a threat can a suspect be if they are already handcuffed?
Prince George’s County officials are expected to hold a press conference Tuesday afternoon to discuss the case.