Lawsuit Faults Shootings Probe

Keith Washington has been indicted in the January 2007 incident.
Keith Washington has been indicted in the January 2007 incident. (Mark Gail - The Washington Post)
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By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 25, 2008

A former Prince George's County police corporal who shot two furniture deliverymen in his home last year received "preferential treatment" from county police investigators, a civil lawsuit filed yesterday alleges.

The lawsuit, filed on the anniversary of the shooting, accuses Keith A. Washington of violating the civil rights of Brandon D. Clark and Robert White, the deliverymen he shot at his home in Accokeek.

Clark, 22, died of his wounds on Feb. 2. White, now 37, was seriously wounded but survived. The lawsuit was filed against Washington and the county on behalf of White and Clark's family.

Without citing specifics, the lawsuit alleges that investigators destroyed evidence, failed to preserve the crime scene, tampered with evidence, intimidated witnesses and filed false reports. It also alleges that Washington falsely told investigators that the deliverymen had either broken into his home or had been in a part of the house they were not authorized to be in.

Cpl. Clinton Copeland, a county police spokesman, said police officials do not comment on pending lawsuits. John Erzen, a spokesman for County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D), said the county had no comment on the lawsuit because it is pending.

Washington, 46, has been indicted on charges that include second-degree murder and second-degree attempted murder in connection with the shootings. His trial is scheduled for Feb. 11.

"Mr. White's desire to get money from this incident is one of his motivations for telling a false story about what happened," said Mike Starr, an attorney for Washington. Starr said White's motivations will be exposed at Washington's criminal trial.

Washington has said he fired in self-defense after the workers entered his 6-year-old daughter's bedroom and attacked him when he ordered them to leave.

The lawsuit, filed in Circuit Court in Upper Marlboro, accuses Washington of opening fire "without warning, provocation or justification."

The lawsuit alleges that Washington was acting in his capacity as a county police officer or as deputy director of the county's office of homeland security -- he held both positions at the time -- when he shot Clark and White. In December, attorneys for the county filed court papers saying that Washington was not acting in an official police capacity at the time of the shootings and that the county, therefore, is not liable for civil damages.

Yesterday, Michael Winkelman, the Bowie attorney for White and Clark's family, said he was confident the county's filing would not be an impediment to the lawsuit.

In September, Washington was deemed to have a medical disability and was permitted to retire from the police department.

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