Officer Who Shot Unarmed Men to Retire

By Candace Rondeaux
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 27, 2007

Keith A. Washington, the Prince George's County police corporal who shot two unarmed furniture deliverymen in January, has been granted a medical disability retirement, sources familiar with the arrangement said.

County officers who qualify for that benefit can, under certain circumstances, receive up to 70 percent of their salary tax free every year for the rest of their lives. The specifics of Washington's benefit could not be learned.

Washington, who has been charged with murder and attempted murder, filed a claim for a physical injury before the Jan. 24 shooting at his Accokeek home, the sources said. The county's Disability Review Board approved Washington's claim in the past two weeks after the Medical Advisory Board, which is made up of doctors, determined that his injury bars him from doing regular police work, said the sources, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

The details of the injury were unclear yesterday. Records show that Washington filed a workers' compensation claim for a back injury in July 2004, just days before County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) announced his appointment to a top homeland security position. Because of the injury, Washington, a former driver for Johnson, was on light duty for a time, the records show.

According to the records, one doctor wrote in May 2003 that Washington "was lifting things in his garage when his back went out." Another doctor two years later said Washington was injured on duty when he and a co-worker were "lifting some heavy equipment."

Attempts to reach Washington, 46, at his home yesterday were unsuccessful. His attorney, Vincent Cohen Jr., did not return calls seeking comment on the retirement.

The injury that qualified Washington for retirement disability does not appear to be related to an earlier workers' compensation claim for depression and "post-traumatic stress." Records from that claim show that Washington was removed from regular duty for more than a year in the mid-1990s after doctors concluded he was a "potential danger." A psychiatrist wrote in a 1994 report that Washington had "fleeting homicidal and suicidal thoughts" and "fits of internal rage."

The records show that Washington, disillusioned with his job and fearful that he would be fired if he returned to regular police work, told another psychiatrist in 1996, "I've been asked if I'd like to retire on disability. . . . I'd love to retire."

Washington remained in his position as deputy homeland security director but was placed on administrative leave after he shot Marlo Furniture deliverymen Brandon D. Clark, 22, and Robert White, 36, under disputed circumstances at his home. Washington has said he acted in self-defense when the movers attacked him after he ordered them from his 6-year-old daughter's bedroom. White has said the shooting was unprovoked. Clark died without making a statement.

Washington was stripped of his police powers in April, after he allegedly brandished his weapon at a real estate appraiser who said he had knocked on the door of Washington's home by mistake. County officials said later that month that Washington was no longer in the homeland security position but declined to specify the circumstances of his departure.

Under the county's retirement pension plan, police officers and certain other employees who retire at age 55 or after 20 years of service receive 60 percent of their average final salary. They receive additional credit for service after 20 years, with a maximum pension payment of up to 85 percent of their salary, according to the county.

Police officers who file medical disability retirement claims for on-the-job injuries can, in some cases, receive up to 70 percent of their salary. Depending on the pension plan, officers who suffer disabling injuries or illnesses off-duty can receive up to 50 percent of their salaries. All such claims are subject to review and approval by the county. It is not clear whether a criminal conviction could jeopardize the benefit.

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