D.C. Cop’s Use of Force Against Black Student Found ‘Reasonably Necessary’

By Sheryl Estrada


Michael Brown, left, and Jason Goolsby, right, with Peter Grenier, Goolsby’s attorney, at a news conference on Oct. 15

An internal review released by the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department on Nov. 25 found that an officer’s use of force on Oct. 12 to detain Jason Goolsby including chasing, tackling and twisting Goolsby’s arm to place him in handcuffs while he screamed in pain, then leaving him lying on the floor handcuffed was justified.

The student did not commit a crime, but was apprehended when a 911 caller said Goolsby and his friends looked “suspicious” standing at an ATM machine.

The final recommendations of the55-page reportincludestatements an investigating official who found the physical testimonial evidence supports the fact the officers used procedures during the stop and frisk that were “reasonably necessary” to bring the situation under control and to overcome resistance. The report also stated that the actions complied with MPD policy.

At a press conference on Oct. 15, Goolsby’s attorney Peter Grenier said Goolsby and his friend Michael Brown were detained because they are Black. A white woman “who had seen Jason and his two friends at an ATM machine called the police and said she felt, quote, ‘Uncomfortable,'” he said.

Related Story: Black Student Brutalized by Police for Making a White Woman ‘Uncomfortable’

D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Laniercalled for the investigation. According to the Washington Post, “Lanier said that the woman was right to call police and that the officers were right in the way they responded. She said that the encounter would have ended differently if Goolsby had not run from officers or resisted when they caught him.”

Grenier said at the press conference, when Goolsby left the ATM to catch a bus, he saw a white police SUV “driving at a high speed directly towards him and he jumped up on the curb to avoid being struck by the SUV.”

As a young, Black male living in the inner city not far from the place of Freddie Gray’s police-related death in Baltimore, Goolsby said he feared for his life.

“My first instinct was to run [from the officers] because I didn’t want to die,” he said at the news conference in October.

The review states, “At no time did [the pursuing officer] attempt to strike or steer his vehicle towards any of the running subjects.”

It also states Goolsby attempted to flee on foot and reached into a backpack he was carrying, which made officers think he had a weapon.

In an email sent to the Washington City Paper on Nov. 25, Grenier contests the MPD’s account that Goolsby reached for his backpack, “which he says contained only a laptop, a headphones-case, schoolwork, keys, pens, and a pencil.”

“Not surprisingly, the MPD report is nothing more than a whitewash, and I mean that in literally every sense of the word,” Grenier wrote. He adds that none of the “uninvolved witnesses” cited in the report mentioned anything about Goolsby reaching into his backpack.

He also said the transcript of the 911 call reporting “suspicious” behavior “by Goolsby, Brown, and a third male does not justify what happened to the pair.”

Sean Blackmon, an organizer for Stop Police Terror Project DC, told the publication Afro American the issue in the case was the police’s immediate suspicion of Goolsby doing something wrong. “What happened to Jason Goolsby is more common than people think,” Blackmon said. “As a matter of fact, in this country, every 28 hours a Black person is subject to police terror.”

D.C. police do not wear body cameras. The only available footage of the incident is cell phone video Goolsby tweeted on Twitter after he was released from the police on Oct. 12.

The video shows Goolsby, 18, a freshman at the University of the District of Columbia, on the ground screaming in pain as a police officer twists his arm behind his back to handcuff him. Brown, also 18, a high school student, recorded the video.

The video shortly went viral and prompted the hashtag #JusticeforJason.

Lanier also said the dispatcher made an error.

“There was a mistake from the dispatcher in repeating the call to the responding officer that these individuals had robbed someone, were involved in a robbery,” Lanier said. “So even though another officer came over the air at a later time and said its suspicion, it does change the dynamic.”

The report states on page 13:

The Office of United Communications Dispatcher working the First District Radio Zone voiced information to the responding units that these subjects may have been robbing people in the area. [Unnamed police officer] after hearing this information, clarified to the other responding units that these subjects were just suspicious and not wanted for robbery.

Related Story: Transcript of 911 Call Leading to Police Brutality in D.C. Released, Protestors March

“The sad part about the way this unfolded is that we don’t want anybody to get the wrong message,” Lanier said. “We don’t want people to feel they can’t call the police if they feel something is suspect. … But we also don’t want young African American males to be afraid of the police when they say they want to talk to you.”

Supervisor’s Witness Statement

On page nine of the report, there is a witness statement by police department supervisor, who arrived on the corner of 8th and D Street, SE after the incident occurred.

The supervisor stated that an officer had one of the men lying on the floor handcuffed, while another officer had the other young man detained. He asked an officer if he was OK and he replied, “Yes.”

“I then told him to sit the suspect up against the wall and I asked the suspect if he was injured,” the supervisor said. “The suspect later known as replied, ‘no,’ but that the officer stopped him for no reason. I told him to calm down, I was the supervisor, and that I was here to make sure the scene was handled properly.”

The supervisor asked an officer what were the offenses.

“He replied he wasn’t sure if he had a robbery because he didn’t interview the complainant since the suspect fled as soon as he approached him.

The supervisor asked another officer to “go to the broadcast scene to if there was a complainant was there.”

After the officer went to the scene, the supervisor was advised that there was no robbery and “the complainant was alarmed by the suspects as she saw them standing by the door where she was attempting to utilize the ATM machine. I then informed both men the reason for them being stopped was in reference to a possible robbery.”

The supervisor told one of the men, presumably Goolsby, the officer saw a matching description when he arrived on the scene, and when he fled the office thought he had the right person. The supervisor then asked the young man why did he run.

He answered, “I thought the officer was going to hit me with his car.”

Goolsby and Brown were not charged or detained. Goolsby is seeking legal redress against the District police department.

“It is beyond dispute that Mr. Goolsby and Mr. Brown were innocent,” Goolsby’s attorney Grenier wrote. “I can only say that it continues to be a sad day for the District of Columbia, when the threat of a lawsuit over an individual’s deprivation of his civil rights causes the MPD to abandon ITS moral compass and write a narrative to excuse their egregious behavior. Shame on them.”

Johnny Barnes, a practicing civil rights attorney and a retired director of the Nation’s Capital chapter of the ACLU said police acting aggressively toward Blacks is usual.

“When I was the director of the city’s ACLU, we were constantly locking horns with the police,” he said.

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