Militarization of Police

Maryland Man Killed in No-Knock SWAT Raid Was Shot While Asleep, Family Says

Montgomery County police say Duncan Lemp "confronted" a SWAT team executing a search warrant on his family's house. His family says he was shot in bed.


Lawyers for the family of a young Maryland man killed during an early morning police raid last week say officers opened fire on him while he was sleeping.

The Montgomery County Police Department said Friday that 21-year-old Duncan Socrates Lemp was shot after he "confronted" officers executing a search warrant on his family's house in Potomac, Maryland, for alleged firearms offenses. But Lemp's family says the young man was asleep in his bed when police opened fire from outside the house, killing Lemp and wounding his girlfriend.

"The facts as I understand them from eyewitnesses are incredibly concerning," Rene Sandler, an attorney for Lemp's family, told the Associated Press.

"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," Lamp's family said in the statement released by Sandler.

The Montgomery County Police said in a press release that a tactical unit executed "a high-risk search warrant related to firearms offenses" at Lemp's house at 4:30 a.m. last Thursday. "Detectives were following up on a complaint from the public that Lemp, though prohibited, was in possession of firearms," the release continued.

The Montgomery County Police claim Lemp "confronted the officers." The statement did not elaborate on the circumstances. Police said they recovered three rifles and two handguns from the house.

A friend of Lemp told ABC News that Lemp was a libertarian. Lemp's social media accounts show an interest in cryptocurrency and guns. ABC News also reported that Lemp posted on militia forums, although Lemp's attorneys denied he was a militia member.

"The family is grieving the unimaginable loss of their loved one," Lemp's family said in its statement. "We will be investigating Duncan's death and will hold each and every person responsible for his death. 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."

In a tweet Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland demanded that the Montgomery County Police Department release body camera footage of the incident.

Maryland has a long history of controversial SWAT raids. In 2008, a Prince George's County Police Department SWAT team executed a botched narcotics raid on the house of the mayor of Berwyn Heights, Maryland, and shot his two black labrador retrievers.

Public outrage over the debacle led the state legislature to pass a law in 2009 requiring police departments to collect and report data on SWAT team deployments. That data showed Maryland law enforcement conducted more than 8,000 SWAT team raids between 2010 and 2014, resulting in nine deaths. But the law expired in 2014, and legislators have yet to renew it.

Reason has covered the disastrous consequences of unnecessary, hyper-militarized police raids for years. Last year an Illinois family filed a lawsuit after a SWAT team officer shot a 12-year-old boy in the kneecap while executing a narcotics search warrant.

In 2016, two Georgia counties paid a $3.6 million settlement to the family of a toddler who was maimed after officers on an anti-drug task force threw a flashbang grenade into his crib. A federal jury acquitted the only police officer who was prosecuted for the incident.  

In 2006, former Reason reporter Radley Balko covered the case of Cory Maye, a Mississippi man who was sentenced to death after shooting an officer during a no-knock raid. Maye was eventually released from prison in 2011.

In Lemp's last tweet, he wrote, "The Constitution is dead."