A Maryland police department has concluded that its officer was justified in fatally shooting a man during a confrontation captured on body camera video, a police chief said in a memo released Wednesday.
Montgomery County Police began the administrative investigation after prosecutors ruled out any criminal charges against Officer Anand Badgujar in the June 2018 shooting. Ultimately, the department found that his use of deadly force against Robert White, a 41-year-old black man, was "lawful and justified."
Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said in a memo dated March 26 that body camera recording shows White escalated the situation by attacking Badgujar and "putting him in grave danger."
Video from another officer's body camera shows the officer backpedaling away from White, who assaulted Badgujar before the officer fired one round, according to the chief.
"Mr. White got up quickly and stood over the officer, who appeared to be in a sitting position on the ground," the chief wrote. "Mr. White is seen on the video holding the officer down while punching him in the head."
The officer believed White was trying to grab his gun after knocking him down, the chief added.
"When Mr. White continued assaulting the officer, Officer Badgujar believed his life was in danger," the chief wrote. "Based on the actions of Mr. White in the video, there is ample evidence that Officer Badgujar was in danger of serious bodily harm which would lawfully justify his use of deadly force."
White didn't brandish a weapon, but police say investigators found a folding knife in his right front pocket.
The deadly encounter happened in a parking lot outside a townhouse development in Silver Spring, a suburb of Washington, D.C. Authorities released body camera footage that August.
White was walking when he was confronted by Badgujar, who activated his body camera after White refused to stop and remove his hands from his pockets. The officer initially used pepper spray after White turned and ran toward him, police said.
"The audio from Officer Badgujar's video shows the officer was concerned that Mr. White may have had mental-health issues and that a 'suicide by cop' situation could be developing," the chief wrote.