Washington's police chief criticized a veteran detective Monday for pulling a gun during a mass snowball fight. Authorities said the officer is on desk duty while the case is under investigation.
Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier said she had watched video clips from the weekend confrontation and has no doubt that the off-duty officer pulled his gun after snowballs hit his personal vehicle during Saturday's record snowfall.
"Let me be very clear in stating that I believe the actions of the officer were totally inappropriate!" Lanier said in a statement. "In no way should he have handled the situation in this manner."
Hundreds of people were gathered for the snowball fight on a major street during Saturday's snowstorm.
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One video posted on YouTube showed a man holding what appears to be a gun in the snowy street. Another video shows the same man telling people he is "Detective Baylor" and that he pulled his gun because he was hit by snowballs.
Videos also show a uniformed police officer holding his gun by his side before holstering it again. Police said in a statement Sunday that the uniformed policeman was there in response to a call about an armed man, acted appropriately and did not point his weapon at anyone.
Assistant Police Chief Peter Newsham told reporters Monday that the detective has been placed on desk duty and his badge and weapon have been withdrawn. He did not identify the officer but described him as a veteran detective with more than 25 years of experience.
"He has a very good reputation," he said.
Newsham said the internal affairs division wants to complete its investigation as quickly as possible, within a number of weeks.
"We have to put the whole incident into context," he said.
There could be a recommendation to discipline the detective, which could range from a reprimand to removal, he said.
Police have at least two videos of the incident, and Newsham said there could be more as the footage shows other people with cell phones and cameras. Police are working to obtain any additional material and will continue to speak to witnesses. He asked people to contact police if they have more footage or to make a report about it.
It's unclear why the officer stopped in the first place, Newsham said. There were no arrests, he said.
Newsham praised the work of other officers who arrived at the scene and de-escalated the situation.
He called the incident "very disappointing" as video of it garnered national attention after circulating on the Internet.
"It does bring a negative light" on the department, he said. Newsham said the incident detracts from the work that day of hundreds of officers who helped people in the snow and directed traffic.
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