Ex-Pr. George's Official Labeled A 'Potential Danger' in '90s

Prince George's police Cpl. Keith A. Washington was limited to light duty for more than a year in the '90s
Prince George's police Cpl. Keith A. Washington was limited to light duty for more than a year in the '90s (Mark Gail - The Washington Post)
By Candace Rondeaux
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Keith A. Washington, the Prince George's County police corporal who shot two unarmed furniture deliverymen in January, was placed on restricted duty for more than a year in the mid-1990s after doctors and department officials determined that his inability to handle the stress of regular police work made him a potential danger, records show.

A psychiatrist who was asked to conduct a "fitness-for-duty" evaluation wrote in 1995 that Washington had "fleeting homicidal and suicidal thoughts" and "fits of internal rage." According to the psychiatrist's report, Washington was asked to turn over his weapon that year after tearfully telling his supervisor that "he did not think he could be accountable for his actions."

"At this time he is a potential danger because of his impulsivity and generalized fearfulness," wrote the psychiatrist, Daniel J. Freedenburg, who recommended therapy and medication.

Freedenburg's report is among several medical assessments that were introduced as exhibits in a workers' compensation case brought by Washington, the records of which are public. The records indicate that he was placed on light duty for more than a year but do not say when or why he was returned to active duty.

The documents make clear that police officials, including one who is now an assistant chief, were aware of concerns about Washington long before he opened fire on the Marlo Furniture deliverymen Jan. 24 at his Accokeek home. Washington, 46, who was a top county homeland security official at the time of the shooting, has been indicted on charges of murder and attempted murder in it. He has said he acted in self-defense.

Attempts to reach Washington at his home yesterday were unsuccessful. His attorney, Vincent H. Cohen Jr., declined to comment.

Lt. April Delabrer, a police spokeswoman, declined to comment on Washington's work history. She said he remains suspended without pay.

The shooting drew wide attention in part because of past abuse complaints against Washington, a former driver for County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D). Washington has come under investigation at least four times over allegations that he used excessive force -- each was deemed unfounded -- and has been sued twice, including once by a D.C. police officer who said he assaulted him and had him falsely arrested.

That case was dismissed after the plaintiff was fatally shot in 1997 during a traffic dispute. The plaintiff in the other lawsuit was awarded $260,000, but the verdict was overturned on appeal.

According to the workers' compensation records, a series of on-the-job "occurrences" culminated in an episode Nov. 8, 1995, when Washington responded to a man's report of a theft from his vehicle. The man approached Washington's cruiser and found him seated with his gun in his hand. Washington told the man that he felt threatened and that he would not put the gun away.

Washington told Freedenburg that there had been a barricade situation in the area the day before involving the man's father, Freedenburg's report says. Washington told the psychiatrist that he was unsure who was at the house and said " 'they are all idiots, thieves and murderers.' "

A week later, Washington told then-Sgt. Darrin Palmer that he was concerned about pending lawsuits against him and that he had become "unable to deal with" the public. Washington began to cry, prompting Palmer to ask him to turn over his weapon and "avoid the police cruiser." Palmer is now one of several assistant chiefs.

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