- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Prince George’s County Police Department’s inspector general said it’s likely the case of a District Heights police officer who shot a handcuffed man in the back as he fled from the officer’s custody will go before a grand jury.

District Heights policeSgt. Johnnie Riley on Thursday shot Kalvin Kyle to prevent the man’s escape from custody, according to District Heights police. Mr. Kyle, 26, had just been arrested in the theft of a motorcycle and was hospitalized in critical condition.

Police Department Inspector General Carlos F. Acosta said he would assume this case will appear for the grand jury for a key reason.

“It creates a level of accountability,” Mr. Acosta said.

County police have taken over the criminal portion of the investigation, while District Heights police will conduct an administrative review of the officer’s actions.

Charles Drago, a former police chief in Florida and a police practices consultant, said investigators looking at this case will be questioning whether Sgt. Riley’s use of force was reasonable.

The use of deadly force by law enforcement can be justifiable in certain types of situations, such as when an officer’s life is in danger or if the officer thinks that a suspect is capable of putting someone’s life in danger if they are not apprehended, he said.

“In the fleeing scenario, a person would have to be reasonably believed to be dangerous,” Mr. Drago said. “Just a fleeing felon or suspect does not warrant the use of deadly force.”

The shooting occurred around 5:20 p.m. Thursday in the 6200 block of Foster Street in District Heights.

Officials with knowledge of the investigation said the officer had handcuffed Mr. Kyle and placed him in the back of his police cruiser. At some point, Mr. Kyle was able to get out of the vehicle and began to flee, and the officer fired, they said.

According to Maryland online court records, Mr. Kyle was previously convicted of theft over $500 and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. As of Friday, he remained in a critical-care unit at an area hospital.

Sgt. Riley, who has been with the District Heights Police Department for eight years, was placed on routine administrative leave as the incident is investigated.

District Heights Police Chief Wendell Brantley declined to comment Friday on Sgt. Riley’s interactions with Mr. Kyle or whether there was any physical confrontation between the two men. Charges of motorcycle theft will be filed against Mr. Kyle and other charges are pending, said Chief Brantley, though he declined to specify them. As part of their investigation, county police are seeking out witnesses to the shooting and looking into whether the police cruiser has a camera that captured the incident, Mr. Acosta said. He declined to speculate on the amount of time the investigation could take, but added that it is important to let the public know about its progress.

“You always want to get as much transparency in the process as you can,” Mr. Acosta said. “You want the public to know what’s going on because it helps your credibility.”

Mr. Drago agreed, adding that it’s often in a police department’s best interest to be straightforward about the details of an investigation that they can confirm, including whether or not a suspect had a weapon or physically attacked an officer.

“I’d be pretty sure that if that individual had a weapon, you’d know it by now,” Mr. Drago said. “That doesn’t mean the shooting isn’t justified. But if it was reasonable for the officer to believe the suspect had a weapon, he could be justified.”

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