A nine-month investigation by the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office released last Thursday concluded that the March 12, 2020 police killing of Maryland resident Duncan Lemp during an early morning SWAT raid was justified.
According to the report, which differs significantly from the original police narrative of the killing, a SWAT officer standing outside of Lemp’s bedroom window shot the 21-year-old Lemp five times after he grabbed a rifle and ignored commands to drop it. The report says police recovered three rifles, two “ghost” guns, numerous magazines and boxes of ammunition, an illegal silencer, a bulletproof vest, and a shotgun shell rigged as a booby trap on Lemp’s bedroom door.
The Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD) obtained a no-knock search warrant to raid Lemp’s house on suspicion that he owned several guns despite being “red-flagged” and prohibited from possessing any due to a juvenile offense, the details of which have not been made public. Lemp’s family, through their attorney, dispute both the justification for the raid and the police narrative surrounding the shooting. Lemp’s family said the search warrant was based on flimsy evidence and that Lemp was shot while asleep in bed. The case has been clouded by the conflicting accounts and the lack of video evidence.
Since Lemp’s 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.) The report also cites Lemp’s ideology and connections to the militia movement as the impetus for the violent nighttime raid.
“The reasons for the ‘no-knock’ provision was due to Lemp being ‘anti-government,’ ‘anti-police,’ currently in possession of body armor, and an active member of the Three Percenters,” the report says. “Additionally, police had viewed several videos showing Lemp handling and shooting firearms. The police felt that knocking and announcing their presence would put the officers in serious danger if Lemp decided to resist his arrest.”
As TFTP has reported far too many times to count, police officers in America are unafraid of shooting and killing man’s best friend. We’ve reported on cops “fearing for their lives” and shooting dogs on leashes as well as sadistic cops killing tiny pets out of pure spite. Police officer violence against dogs is so extremely common that we’ve even reported on cops beating and choking their own dogs. However — outside of cops leaving their dogs in hot cars until they die — we have never reported on a cop deliberately killing his own K-9 partner, until now.
This week, a Plymouth Police K-9 handler shot and killed his own dog — on purpose. The incident happened when police were preparing the dog to track a suspect when the officer alleged that his K-9 bit him.
Officer Keith Larson said that his K-9 Nico, attacked him and he had no other option but to kill him. Police said Larson attempted to get the dog under control but was unsuccessful so he pulled out his gun and shot the dog “for safety reasons.”
After he killed his own dog, the department asked the public to keep officer Larson in your prayers.
After the death of George Floyd in May of this year, 2020 marked a historical movement in the fight for police accountability and equal justice under the law. Despite facing a global pandemic, millions of Americans left their homes and took to the streets to have their voices be heard. The momentum toward radical change was inspiring.
However, the winds quickly fell from the sails of that change as mainstream media and establishment partisans essentially coopted the movement. Instead of talking about actual solutions like ending the drug war or ending qualified immunity, the establishment pushed the vaguely uninspiring movement to defund the police and continued to push divide based on race.
Even Black Lives Matter is now admitting that despite raising billions of dollars over the course of 2020, the establishment is leaving them in the wake. Despite Joe Biden and Kamala Harris paying lip service to police brutality and riding the waves of the Black Lives Matter movement, the president-elect and his vice president now refuse to even meet with the group. This is also in spite of the fact that BLM formed a PAC, which helped fund its ad campaigns to mobilize Black voters to go out and vote for Biden.
What so many police accountability activists are learning now is that the more things change, the more they stay the same. As fissures in their leadership begins to crack apart Black Lives Matter inside its upper echelons, talk about police reform is waning, fast.
Getting bad orange man out of the White House has effectively placated the masses and the huge movements and protests we witnessed prior to November 3, have fizzled out.
Despite horrifying police killings, many of which were captured on video and rocked the nation, the arrest rate for cops who kill people on-duty remains as low as ever. According to reports, since 2005, just 126 police officers have been arrested for murder or manslaughter in relation to an on-duty killing.
Why did a Montgomery County, Maryland SWAT team kill 21-year-old Duncan Lemp, in a no-knock predawn raid on March 12? The county released an official report yesterday stating that a violent no-knock raid was justified “due to Lemp being ‘anti-government,’ ‘anti-police,’ currently in possession of body armor, and an active member of the Three Percenters.” The report also noted that “police had viewed several videos showing Lemp handling and shooting firearms.”
Distrusting the government and police and appearing in photos or videos with firearms is a catch-all that could apply to millions of Americans. But that was enough to justify a deadly assault in one of America’s most liberal jurisdictions. (I wrote about this case for TAC previously here, here, here and here).
Montgomery County released the report on New Year’s Eve, probably hoping that it would receive scant attention. But the county’s own admissions should propel new demands for disclosures on the most under-reported police killing of 2020.
The report details how police attacked the Lemp home from two sides. Two members of the raid team did a “‘break and rake’ on Duncan Lemp’s first-floor bedroom window while the rest of the team entered the house by using a battering ram on the main front door … Another officer used a fireman’s pike tool to break the bedroom window closest to the bed where Lemp and [his pregnant girlfriend Kasey] Robinson were sleeping. The tool also has a hook that is used to grab a hold of and pull away the blinds so that officers would have an unobstructed view inside the bedroom. Once the window was broken and the shades pulled out of the way, one officer ducked below the window line as he was unarmed. A second officer (the shooting officer) who was armed with a rifle, then stepped up to the window and looked inside to locate Lemp as soon as possible and prevent him from having time to access any weapons that could be used against the SWAT officers.” Another team of SWAT cops used a battering ram to smash in the front door of the Lemp home.
The official report serves a completely different version of Lemp’s killing than the county police department provided on March 17. In its initial explanation of the Lemp killing in March, the Montgomery County Police Department stated:
The officers entering the residence announced themselves as police and that they were serving a search warrant. Officers gave commands for individuals inside the residence to show their hands and to get on the ground. Upon making contact with Lemp, officers identified themselves as the police and gave him multiple orders to show his hands and comply with the officer’s commands to get on the ground. Lemp refused to comply with the officer’s commands and proceeded towards the interior bedroom door where other officers were located. Upon entrance by officers into Lemp’s bedroom, Lemp was found to be in possession of a rifle and was located directly in front of the interior bedroom entrance door.
In the new version of the report, Lemp was shot five times by a policeman standing outside his smashed-in bedroom window. Montgomery County still refuses to name the policeman who killed him. That policeman says that he shouted a warning to Lemp before opening fire, asserting that Lemp stood up holding a rifle and turned the muzzle toward the policeman. (The family always maintained that the shots that killed Duncan came in from that window.) Were the police lying in March, or are they lying now, or are they still lying?
“Let’s go to the videotape”—except that there isn’t any. And there were no other police witnesses to the killing of Duncan Lemp. Police body cams have been one of the most significant reforms in curbing police misconduct in this century. But, as Lemp family lawyer Rene Sandler disclosed, Montgomery County signed a labor agreement with the police union which allowed the SWAT team to “opt out of the truth and transparency by not being required to wear body camera or videotaping a no knock raid.” This is par for the course for police unions across the nation utterly sabotaging police accountability.
Police targeted and eventually killed in part Lemp because they believed he possessed an illegal Israeli assault weapon. Late in the report, as if reciting a minor technicality, the county prosecutor states, “It should be noted that upon further review and investigation into the IWI Tavor X95 rifle, it was determined that it was not an assault rifle … It appears that Lemp’s rifle was a legal ‘copycat’ made to look exactly like the illegal version of the IWI Tavor X95.” But the non-banned weapon was close enough for government work to justify violently attacking Lemp’s home. The false predicate for the violent raid barely rates a footnote in the 17-page report.
Police stated that Lemp was prohibited from possessing any firearms due to a previous criminal conviction—a point that the family vigorously contests. According to Sandler, the affidavit used to secure the no-knock raid contained information that was “demonstrably false.” (Shades of Waco and Ruby Ridge!) A police raid occurred at the Lemp family home when Lemp was a juvenile in 2016 but no details were disclosed in the report on that raid or by anyone else.
Montgomery County announced that the killing would be investigated by neighboring Howard County, to assure an independent credible review. But that was a sham from the start. The Howard County prosecutor requested that a Montgomery County detective “conduct interviews” with key police personnel, including the officer who signed the search warrant and the SWAT supervisor “to find out more details regarding why the decision was made to do a no-knock warrant.” Howard County made no effort to determine some of the most potentially controversial aspects of the case.
A grand jury examined the shooting earlier this year but all of the testimony and evidence presented remains confidential—except for selections that the county attorney’s office received permission from a judge to disclose in the report. Sandler and Cary Hansel, a lawyer for Kasey Robinson, Lemp’s girlfriend, are outraged at what they consider “cherry picking” by the prosecutor. They are calling for full disclosure of all materials and evidence from the grand jury proceedings. Was the grand jury investigation into the killing of Duncan Lemp as big a charade as the Louisville grand jury that examined the police killing of Breonna Taylor earlier this year? Sandler notes, “The family is particularly upset at the lack of any consideration of the other eye witnesses in the home at the time [of the raid]. The report simply makes it clear that none of that was seriously considered.” Instead, the new storyline on the killing was sacrosanct.
Nothing in the report indicates that Lemp posed a threat of imminent threat of violence to anyone, not even to stray dogs in the neighborhood. The report indicates that police were surveilling Duncan Lemp and the Lemp residence well before they launched the SWAT raid. Sandler said police “would have seen him taking Kasey to a doctor’s appointment or going to a store. They could have detained him during a traffic stop while [other police] secured the home. That would be a much safer tactic than to accost an entire family and to raid blindly at 4:30 in the morning in the dark.”
Why did the SWAT team rely on massive violence instead of the type of routine police work that prevailed in most of the nation in the last century? The “break and rake” routine seems custom-made to spur residents to grab any firearm or broomstick handy. And then there were the bombs the police detonated that morning. Flash-bang grenades epitomize the current relation between police and private citizens. A 2019 federal appeals court decision noted that the grenades are “four times louder than a 12-gauge shotgun blast” with “a powerful enough concussive effect to break windows and put holes in walls.” As TechDirt noted in 2019, “As anyone other than cops seems to comprehend, startling people in their own homes with explosives and kicked-in doors tends to make everything more dangerous for everyone.”
The official report makes clear that Lemp was targeted in part because of his political beliefs. Lemp is identified as a supporter of the “the Three Percenters … a far-right militia movement and paramilitary group” which advocates “gun ownership rights and resistance to the federal government’s involvement in local affairs.” ( Three-percenter refers to “the belief that only 3% of colonists fought against the British in the Revolutionary War,” as the report notes.) This is close enough to heresy in antigun Maryland, though it is considered on par with motherhood and apple pie in most of America. Lemp was outspoken politically, and his last tweet, a couple months before he was killed, declared, “The constitution is dead.” The report also gravely notes, “Lemp has a number of postings on his Instagram page showing him in possession of and shooting different types of guns.” The police targeting of Duncan Lemp was spurred by a “confidential source” whose name has not yet been disclosed. The report states that that source directed police to Lemp’s “mymilitia.com” and “Instagram” profile pages. Was the “confidential source” trying to bring down gun activists, or was he working off a plea bargain (bringing in scalps for a reduced sentence), or was it simply someone who Lemp had told about his firearms?
Tragically, in America, mass shootings — in which murdering psychopaths go on rampages in public spaces — have claimed the lives of 392 people since 2015. While this number is certainly shocking and far too high, during this same time frame, police in America have claimed the lives of 6,571 citizens, according to Mapping Police Violence.
That is over 16 times more citizens killed by those sworn to protect and serve than the ones they claim to protect us from.
While some of these citizens were armed and dangerous, others were innocent, unarmed, and include small children. Daniel Shaver was one of these people whose life was brought to a screeching halt as he begged on his knees for police not to shoot him. Despite being innocent and unarmed, this father of three was murdered in cold blood by Philip Brailsford who was never held accountable and allowed to retire from the police force with his pension.
According to the most recent count of police killings, police in America have killed 1,039 people this year. Exactly 21 of these victims were at or under the age of 18 when their lives were taken by police officers who swore an oath to protect and serve. Many were unarmed while others were entirely innocent. All of them, however, were innocent until proven guilty — yet never got the option to plead their cases.
So far this year, there have only been 17 days in which police have not killed someone.
Casey Christopher Goodson Jr., 23, had no criminal record, was not wanted by police, and was bringing his grandmother lunch, when he was gunned down by Franklin County Sheriff’s deputy, Jason Meade who was working with a U.S. Marshals Service fugitive task force. His grandmother and Goodson’s 5-year-old brother watched Goodson die in front of them — their Subway sandwiches lying in a pool of blood. Few details about why Meade decided to kill this man have been released, other than the standard “feared for his life” and “I saw a gun” claims. However, we are now learning about this killer cop’s past which may have contributed to his trigger happy nature.
Meade has a background as a pastor. But unlike most pastors who teach Jesus Christ’s philosophy of turning the other cheek, Meade preached to strike first and ask questions later.
In a YouTube video series for the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office called “Connecting with the Community,” Meade gave a sermon at the the Ohio State Association of Free Will Baptists in 2018. During that sermon, this killer cop said, “I learned long ago why I’m justified in throwing the first punch. Don’t look up here like ‘Oh police brutality’.”
Meade reiterated his stance on preemptively striking those he “hunted” several times.
While telling the church goers that he was a cop, Meade said, “I work for the Sheriff’s office… I hunt people – it’s a great job, I love it. I got a bunch of my SWAT members here and even my bosses are here, I appreciate ‘em coming out, they’re good men of god. I’m glad they came out to support us today, but they’ll let you know, I worked this job 14 years, you know I ain’t never been hit clean in the face one time?”
He clarifies, “It’s a fact. It ain’t cuz I’m so good, I ain’t bad, it ain’t cuz I’m so good. You know why? I learned long ago I gotta throw the first punch.”
Meade adds, “Hahahaha yeah, every time I hit ‘em and I’m like that’s for you, that’s for you [referring to the audience]. It’s not that bad, I’m kidding. But listen, this is the truth.”
When a preacher gives a sermon about throwing the first punch, people should know well enough to walk out but Meade wasn’t just a preacher. He is also a cop — and when cops talk about throwing the first punch, they should not be cops.