Grand jury declines to indict in Shand shooting
By Sophie Gorman Oriani
On Sept. 10, Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy announced that a Prince George’s County grand jury had declined to indict any of the officers involved in the Sept. 26, 2019 shooting death of Leonard Shand.
According to the expert report published in mid-August, Shand had assaulted a Starbucks employee three days prior to the shooting incident. On Sept. 26, Shand was reportedly agitated and wielding two knives prior to the shooting, which took place in Hyattsville near the Mall at Prince George’s. Nine Hyattsville City Police Department (HCPD) officers, three officers from Prince George’s County Police Department and one from Mount Rainier were on the scene. Six HCPD officers and the four other officers fired a total of 24 rounds towards Shand following a half-hour negotiation period.
Braveboy said she made the decision in this case to retain an outside expert rather than merely relying on the state Public Integrity Unit. The outside investigation was completed by Tyrone Powers of Powers Consulting Group.
Powers heads a consultancy based in Baltimore that provides expert reports and trainings to law enforcement and private security companies. Michael Blow, former deputy chief of the Prince George’s County Police Department, is a staff member.
In the report, Powers criticized tactics used by police leading up to the fatal shooting, particularly the use of a flashbang grenade, which Powers describes as “spontaneous, unplanned, and uncoordinated between the officers.” At the Sept. 10 press conference, he also commended the officers’ “remarkable restraint,” noting that they could have reasonably shot Shand earlier than they did, but continued to try to subdue him with nonlethal methods.
Ultimately, Powers deemed the shooting “objectively reasonable and consistent with accepted standards of police practices, policies, and training” due to the potential for harm to the officers.
Powers issued a series of recommendations, including overhauling the county mobile crisis team, providing joint training between the different police agencies to “facilitate a coordinated response” and providing extensive training on flashbang grenades.
“Please know that the grand jury’s decision not to indict, and the conclusions reached by the independent use-of-force expert, does not ease our collective grief, nor does it signal that the response of the officers that day was satisfactory,” Braveboy said, adding that she plans to continue to look for ways to improve law enforcement engagement with the community.
The ACLU quickly criticized the shooting, saying that “the police created a dangerous situation, causing an armed man to run towards them, and then used the inevitable result of their actions as the justification to shoot him.” Shand told officers that he would charge if a beanbag shotgun were fired at him, according to the expert report, and he did run towards officers immediately following their use of a beanbag shotgun and flashbang grenade.
HCPD Chief Amal Awad said that the death of Leonard Shand was “devastating for Shand’s family, the community and the officers” involved in the incident. “Folks are still processing,” she said.
Adrienne Augustus, the new HCPD media relations and mental health program manager, said that HCPD’s goal, “… is to have a robust mental health emergency response team dedicated to the City of Hyattsville and one that incorporates partnerships with our police department, local social services agencies and the general public.”
At the Sept. 21 Hyattsville City Council meeting, City Administrator Tracey Douglas said that although the grand jury declined to indict any of the officers, Hyattsville still plans to conduct an administrative investigation. This investigation, which is not a criminal investigation, will be conducted by an independent outside agency. The agency will turn the results over to the police chief. There is no timeline yet for this investigation.