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Cop Off Streets After Pulling Gun at Snowball Fight

Cop Off Streets After Pulling Gun at Snowball Fight

A group takes part in an impromptu snowball fight that took over the intersection of 14th and U Streets during a snow storm in Washington, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2009. (AP Photo)

The AP via YellowBrix

December 22, 2009

WASHINGTON – D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier criticized a veteran detective Monday for pulling a gun during a mass snowball fight.

D.C. Police Det. Mike Baylor – a 28-year veteran of the force – has been placed on desk duty while authorities investigate the incident.

Lanier said she had watched video clips from the weekend confrontation and has no doubt that the off-duty, plainclothes 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.”

Related: DC Chief Slams Officer Over Gun at Snowball Fight

Hundreds of people were gathered for the snowball fight on a major street during Saturday’s snowstorm.

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Police Chief Peter Newsham did not identify Baylor as the detective involved in the incident, but said the officer has withdrawn his badge and weapon.

Related: See the video.

Newsham says Baylor could be fired, depending on what the investigation reveals.

“When you’re using your weapon, it’s for deadly force so you’d have to be confronted with deadly force or someone else would have to be confronted with deadly force for you to use your weapon,” Newsham says.

“I don’t think a snowball would rise to that occasion.”

Newsham said the internal affairs division wants to complete its investigation as quickly as possible, within a number of weeks.

“He has a very good reputation,” Newsham said of the officer. “We have to put the whole incident into context.”

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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