Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Tuesday that she believes the suspect seen in a viral bystander video in possession of a “ghost gun” on his waistband as police repeatedly punched him in the face should have been criminally charged.
Three officers with the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department are facing criminal and administrative investigations after a video showed one of them repeatedly punching a 23-year-old suspect in the face, while the other two officers held him against a fence while placing him under arrest.
The suspect was found to have a fully loaded .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol in his waistband, which the D.C. Police Union affirmed was a “ghost gun,” meaning the firearm wasn’t marked with an individualized serial number, making it more difficult to track by law enforcement.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia is still reviewing whether the three suspended officers will face criminal charges – though charges against the 23-year-old have been dropped, Fox 5 DC reported. He was facing drug-related, illegal possession of a firearm and resisting arrest offenses.
3 DC COPS SUSPENDED AFTER 1 CAUGHT ON CAMERA REPEATEDLY PUNCHING SUSPECT DURING ARREST: POLICE CHIEF
“I do feel like he should have been charged,” Bowser said at a press conference Tuesday. But I also know the reality that the prosecutor probably said to himself, ‘l take this to the jury, there’s no way it’s going to be prosecuted. So I might as well spend my time on something else.’
“The whole thing is completely frustrating,” the mayor said. “At least we got the gun, and we’ve identified somebody who maybe will take advantage of some help to choose a different path.”
Bowser and D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee both have been vocal about ensuring gun offenders are held accountable and not released back onto the streets. The officers in the video were sent into that specific neighborhood, which has experienced a recent dramatic uptick in violent crime and is known to have pervasive open air drug dealing, with orders to “get guns off the street,” the police union said.
Contee said Tuesday the officers attempted to place the man under arrest after witnessing a “hand-to-hand drug transaction” and felt the bulge of a firearm during a pat down.
“I understand the frustration people feel. At first, we saw one of our police officers sworn with a gun and a badge appear to use excessive force in punching somebody,” Bowser said. “Our officers are not trained to do that in order to take a gun. I also want to be clear that all of our officers have a responsibility to each other and to the community. So all officers have a duty to respond.”
The viral video also shows the moment officers remove the loaded pistol from the suspect’s waistband.
“Prior to taking possession of the weapon, the gun was unsecured and a danger to police officers, the suspects and anyone nearby,” DC Police Union Chairman Gregg Pemberton said in a statement.
“The officers physically determined there was a weapon in his waistband and that the suspect was making efforts to retrieve it,” the union leader added. “In this case, these officers used a minimal amount of force to subdue a violent suspect in possession of an illegal firearm.”
Referencing “open air drug dealing” at that location, Bowser said Tuesday about the ongoing problem that “everybody knows it, and everybody wants something done about it, so our officers will be present, will be responding, will be going after guns, will protect people’s constitutional rights.”
Contee also expressed regret over the officers’ actions seen in the viral video.
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“I am embarrassed, disturbed, disheartened, and ashamed of what I’ve seen,” the chief said at his own press conference Tuesday. “MPD prides itself on treating everyone with respect, even when we are recovering guns and taking some of our most violent criminals off of our streets, it will be done constitutionally and respectfully.”
The incident is also under investigation by MPD Internal Affairs Division and the Office of Police Complaints. The officers have been stripped of their police powers and placed on non-contact status. None have been identified.
Fox News’ Stephen Sorace contributed to this report.