“Justified?” Hundreds of Silver Spring Residents Say NO.

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On July 30, the Howard County (MD) States Attorney announced their decision that a Montgomery County Police officer who shot and killed an unarmed Black man was “justified” in his actions. Two days later, police released the body cam video. Neighbors and members of the Silver Spring Justice Coalition came to the exact opposite conclusion.

Quentin Nardi, who lives near Mr. White and considered him a friend told Bethesda Magazine that the video did not provide a justification for why the officer began trailing White in the first place. “Robert clearly wanted to be left alone,” she said. “I’m outraged that the cop didn’t wait for backup. I’m outraged that it took a gun to solve this problem. …There was no problem, and a man is dead.”

“It was obvious from his voice that his [Officer Badjugar’s] adrenaline was pumping,” Shayla Davis, a leader of Takoma Park Mobilization’s work group on ending mass incarceration told the magazine. “He could’ve tried to talk to him [White], but he seemed more concerned about pursuing him as opposed to figuring out if he had any connection to a crime or perhaps he was suffering from mental illness.”

Over a hundred residents turned out at a hastily organized protest in downtown Silver Spring on August 5, called by the Silver Spring Justice Coalition, of which Defending Rights & Dissent is a part. White’s sister, Irene Thompson traveled up from North Carolina to attend and speak at the protest.

“Is it illegal to walk the streets with a torn shirt?” White’s sister, Irene Thompson, said, referring to Badgujar’s explanation for why White first caught his attention. “Is it illegal to walk with your hands in your pockets? We need answers, and we need them now.”

Local station WTOP’s Liz Anderson reported:

Rally-goers and organizers expressed concern about what led up to the fatal encounter and concern about how officers treat those who have a mental illness.

“The officer said something like this may be a suicide-by-cop thing,” said Carlean Ponder, with the Silver Spring Justice Coalition, about the recently released police body-camera footage. “But at no point do we see the officer engaging any de-escalation techniques. Instead, we see him chasing (White) with his gun drawn.”

Ponder said the first step toward justice would be to terminate the officer who shot White.

“An officer who decides to approach someone based on the clothing that they’re wearing, when that person is not known to be involved in a crime, is not one that I think should be on the force,” Ponder said.

Another concern expressed at the rally is the need for more officers who are familiar with the people in the communities where they serve.

Speakers said White was known to travel the area by foot. Protester Sophia Marjanovic said if the officer “understood and was part of the community, he would know not to bother Robbie White. He would know not to bother Robbie White, that this was a normal occurrence for Robbie White to walk in his own neighborhood.”

After the rally, demonstrators marched more than one mile for a candlelight vigil at the site where White was shot.