Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh sued Harford County Sheriff Jeff Gahler on Monday for “interfering” with the state’s investigation right into a deadly taking pictures by county deputies in Forest Hill on Saturday.
In a courtroom submitting, Frosh mentioned his workplace has not been allowed entry to bodily proof from the scene of the deadly taking pictures of 53-year-old John Raymond Fauver, nor has it been given digital copies of video footage recorded through the incident.
The courtroom battle, preceded by two days of arguments between the county and state officers, may very well be an early take a look at for a Maryland regulation handed in 2021 that gave the lawyer common’s workplace the ability to research such incidents.
Frosh, a Democrat, requested for a judgment from the Harford County Circuit Court clarifying that his workplace “is to have custody of all original evidence in a police-involved civilian death.” He additionally referred to as for an injunction from the courtroom that may restrain the sheriff’s workplace from getting in the best way of his workplace’s probe.
The Harford County Sheriff’s Office on Monday recognized two deputies, Sgt. Bradford Sives and Cpl. Christopher Maddox, who’re on administrative go away following Saturday’s incident.
After Frosh’s submitting Monday, Gahler, a Republican, mentioned the lawyer common was “politicizing” the incident.
“It’s a shame that this couldn’t be worked out ahead of time in some manner,” Gahler mentioned. “And I attribute that to the inflexibility of the attorney general.”
In letters courting to August, Gahler has disputed the lawyer common’s interpretation of the state regulation, arguing that nothing within the regulation gave the workplace unique authority over investigations. The places of work debated forwards and backwards with out reaching an settlement, till an lawyer for Gahler mentioned the trade had “likely run its course.”
Now, a courtroom will determine.
“It’s sad because at the center of this, there is a life lost. There is a family impacted. There are officers waiting to see what their future holds,” Gahler mentioned.
In interviews, Fauver’s household described him as an clever individual and mild soul who suffered from psychological well being points and persistent ache.
His spouse, Jennifer, who requested that her final identify be withheld, despatched a textual content message to colleagues and pals following his dying.
“John committed suicide by police officer,” she wrote. “My heart is broken for the officers involved. My heart is broken for John.”
The deputies are each 15-year veterans of the company, in accordance with the sheriff’s workplace. Sives is assigned to the company’s Police Operations Bureau and assigned to the Northern District, which relies in Jarrettsville, and Maddox works within the Criminal Investigation Division of the Investigative Services Bureau, the sheriff’s workplace mentioned. Neither was injured through the taking pictures.
Deputies received calls about Fauver, who was “reportedly suicidal” and believed to be wielding a protracted gun, round 3 p.m. Saturday, the sheriff’s workplace mentioned.
The deputies encountered Fauver behind a CVS retailer on Rock Spring Road and fired at him round 4 p.m. Deputies carried out CPR on Fauver, and he was taken to Upper Chesapeake Medical Center, the place he died.
The sheriff’s workplace declined to make clear Monday whether or not Fauver was discovered with a gun, saying they weren’t ready to reveal details about any proof from the scene.
In his courtroom submitting Monday, Frosh mentioned the Harford County Sheriff’s Office notified his workplace’s Independent Investigative Division in regards to the taking pictures at 4:49 p.m. Saturday and the division arrived to the taking pictures scene at 5:31 p.m.
When people from the division arrived, alongside personnel from Maryland State Police, officers from the sheriff’s workplace mentioned they’d “not be allowed” to course of the scene or gather any proof. In a cellphone name with division chief Dana Mulhauser, Gahler “stated unequivocally that he was refusing” to permit state officers to gather the proof, in accordance with Frosh’s submitting.
By the time the sheriff’s workplace started accumulating proof, the state police had been on the scene, the submitting acknowledged.
The sheriff’s workplace has “not responded” to the division’s request for entry to the bodily proof.
Harford County State’s Attorney Albert Peisinger mentioned the sheriff’s workplace additionally wouldn’t present copies of the video proof, although it may very well be seen by state officers within the sheriff’s workplace’s cellular command middle.
“It’s my opinion that the law requires access, not copies,” Peisinger mentioned in an interview, including that state investigators had the flexibility to “walk the scene” once they arrived, and had an invite from him and others already on the scene to view the video at their comfort.
The native state’s lawyer’s workplace is tasked with making a choice about whether or not to pursue expenses towards officers concerned in a civilian’s dying after the lawyer common’s workplace’s investigation.
Peisinger mentioned the state investigative unit’s observe of publishing video from police-involved fatalities inside 14 days of the taking pictures may jeopardize “the integrity of the investigation.”
“Once information starts getting out there, then you start to wonder if witness testimony is based upon personal recollection or if it could be biased or influenced because they watched the video 10 times or five times,” Peisinger mentioned.
Del. Vanessa Atterbeary, a Howard County Democrat who helped craft the regulation that empowers the lawyer common’s workplace to research fatalities by police, mentioned the regulation and its intent are clear, and, in her opinion, Harford County is breaking it.
Updating you on the day’s largest information earlier than the night commute.
Anyone who interprets the regulation like Gahler and Peisinger “just doesn’t want to comply with the law,” Atterbeary mentioned, and dangers “folks coming back to the legislature next session and passing legislation to punish those that don’t comply.”
In his authorized submitting, Frosh traced the historical past of the laws that supplied his workplace with the ability to research police-involved civilian deaths, together with failed makes an attempt by some legislators to maintain investigatory authority with native regulation enforcement. At the time, Gahler testified that he supported such modifications.
In 2022, the General Assembly handed and Gov. Larry Hogan signed a invoice that strengthens the earlier laws, stating the lawyer common’s impartial investigations division is “the primary investigative unit” for such instances. The invoice additionally acknowledged that native regulation enforcement businesses “shall provide any requested evidence” to the division. The regulation takes impact July 1.
Gahler mentioned he felt his workplace must do “very little, if anything” to vary its insurance policies, as a result of he already believes that the division has the first authority to research police conduct. But he mentioned he disagrees with the assertion that native regulation enforcement businesses can not additionally examine legal exercise main as much as police makes use of of drive that end in dying.
Del. Luke Clippinger, a Baltimore Democrat who chairs the state House Judiciary Committee, which shepherded the laws that mandated the impartial investigations by means of the legislature, mentioned Gahler is bucking the legislature’s authority. He mentioned this 12 months’s laws ought to have cleared up any manufactured ambiguity in regards to the lawmakers’ intent.
“That’s twice in the last two years that the policy choice of the General Assembly has been very clear: We believe there should be an independent agency investigating these deaths,” Clippinger mentioned.
Baltimore Sun Media reporter Jason Fontelieu contributed to this text.