Brian Frosh submits investigative intervention in police-involved shooting

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Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh is suing a local sheriff who he says blocked his office from investigating a police-involved shooting, in violation of a state law that was initiated in a widespread wave of reforms last year.

Frosh (D) on Monday filed the complaint against Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey R. Gahler after the county sheriff’s department refused to allow the state’s independent investigation department to gather evidence in the death of a 53-year-old man on April 23 in police custody.

“This interference in an independent investigation is against the law,” Frosh said in a statement. “The people of Maryland deserve better, and we will fight to see that they get it.”

Frosh is asking the court to issue a temporary restraining order against Gahler, who for several months has challenged Frosh’s authority under the new law and on Monday accused him of launching a “politically motivated attack.”

According to the complaint, the Harford County Sheriff’s Office has refused to cooperate with the Independent Investigation Department, an agency that Maryland lawmakers voted to establish last year amid a broader effort to strengthen police accountability and transparency in the wake of the assassination of George Floyd in Minneapolis. and the national outcry for police reform. The sweeping legislation sets new rules for when the police may use force and how they are investigated and disciplined.

The state investigation department was called after 53-year-old Raymond Fauver died in a meeting with deputies but was not allowed to gather evidence, according to the complaint. There have been 15 police-involved deaths since October, according to the Attorney General’s Office. Two have happened in the past two days, including one that happened on the east coast on Monday.

According to a release from a Harford County sheriff, deputies were sent to a call about a suicidal person who “is believed to have a long gun.” The man, later identified as Fauver, was found behind a CVS in Forest Hill. “The interaction ended with deputies firing their firearms,” ​​the statement said.

Fauver’s death is the first death by force in Harford County since the law came into force nearly seven months ago.

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Late. William C. Smith (D-Montgomery), who sponsored the bill that created the independent inquiry, said Monday that it was “extremely frustrating” to see the head of a law enforcement agency refuse to cooperate with the state’s top law enforcement as required by law. .

“The intent of the law is crystal clear,” Smith said. “There appears to be an intentional violation of non-compliance.”

Gahler has been fighting against the law, which went into effect in October since the idea was proposed last year. He has sent several letters to Frosh’s office in the past year, claiming he has a “constitutional obligation” to investigate any crime that takes place in Harford County, “regardless of who may have committed those crimes.”

“I’m very disappointed that Mr Frosh has decided to take a tragedy like the one that happened here in Harford County and try to make a political statement or turn it into some political feed,” Gahler said Monday in a telephone interview.

Gahler has been in a fight over the past year over the new law, claiming that Frosh has exceeded his authority under the law.

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In a November letter to Frosh, Gahler indicated that he “will not resign”, will not “abstain”. [his] own responsibility to investigate, “and will instead” continue with [his] investigation. “A lawyer for Gahler sent a letter to Frosh in December reiterating that the sheriff” will not follow the protocols issued by “the independent investigation department.

Raquel Coombs, a spokeswoman for Frosh, who is retiring in January, said the newly created department “is simply … trying to carry out its statutory duty to conduct an independent and transparent investigation.”

The ACLU in Maryland said deputies’ response to an alleged suicidal person underscored the need for police reform.

“Calling 911 for help with a person described as suicidal should not lead to the police killing the person … We do not know the details of what happened here, but society needs transparency,” David Rocah, senior attorney for the ACLU in Maryland, said in a statement.

A hearing will be held Thursday morning in Harford County Circuit Court, a spokeswoman for Frosh said.

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