Why Haven't We Seen the Body Cam Footage of Duncan Lemp's Killing?
It's been nearly four months since a Maryland SWAT team killed Duncan Lemp, and there's been no transparency.
It's been nearly four months since Montgomery County police killed 21-year-old Duncan Lemp during a nighttime raid on his house in Potomac, Maryland, but the Montgomery County Police Department has still not released body camera footage from the incident, despite calls from civil liberties groups and Lemp's family.
Lawyers for Lemp's family claim he was shot while he was lying in bed during a March 12 no-knock raid by a Montgomery County Police Department SWAT team, who threw flashbangs into his room and fired on him through his bedroom window.
The MCPD says it received a tip that Lemp was in illegal possession of firearms, which he was allegedly barred from owning due to a juvenile offense. The MCPD claims Lemp was in "possession of a rifle" when he was shot. Additionally, the department says Lemp had designed a booby trap on his bedroom door to detonate a shotgun shell in the direction of anyone entering his room.
There's one way to possibly clear up these two conflicting narratives: Release the body camera footage from the fatal raid. But the MCPD has steadfastly refused to do so.
Reason sent two public records requests, one via third-party service Muckrock and another by mail requesting the body camera footage, to the MCPD. It never received a response to either, despite Maryland law requiring the department to acknowledge those requests within 10 days. The American Conservative reports that the MCPD rejected similar requests from the Firearms Policy Coalition, a Second Amendment group.
"Montgomery County has refused to confirm that body camera video even exists and the chief has refused our requests for the family to meet with him," Rene Sandler, an attorney representing Lemp's family, says. "That is where things stand for the time being."
A Montgomery county prosecutor also threatened Lemp's family with jail time and fines if they violated Maryland's stay-at-home order to protest his killing.
The MCPD and county can spring into action when it feels like it, however. For example, MCPD released body camera footage of the fatal May 7 police shooting of another man, Finan Berhe, a mere 24 hours after it occurred.
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 say he wasn't a member of any militias.
Since his death, his name has been frequently invoked by "boogaloo boys," a loose, heavily armed, and very online anti-government movement. ("Boogaloo" refers to a second civil war or armed conflict between citizens and the government. It's also used by some white supremacists to refer to the race war that they believe is just around the corner, although USA Today reports that the libertarian wing of the boogaloo movement rejects this association.)
Boogaloo groups are under intense scrutiny after several violent acts by men associated with it. Federal prosecutors recently charged two boogaloo supporters, Steven Carrillo and Robert Justus, in the May 29 killing of a security guard at a federal courthouse in Oakland, California. Facebook announced on Tuesday that it was removing hundreds of boogaloo pages.
The Howard County State's Attorney's Office is currently investigating Lemp's killing. Montgomery County and Howard County, which are adjacent to each other, have a reciprocal agreement where prosecutors for one county investigate fatal police shootings in the other.