By Maria Glod and Theola Labbé-DeBose
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 22, 2009; B02
A D.C. police detective who drew his pistol during a Saturday snowball fight at 14th and U streets NW has been on the force almost three decades, police sources said.
Detective Michael Baylor, who was hired in 1980, has been put on desk duty pending the outcome of an internal investigation into an incident that made national news after video of it hit YouTube. The footage shows Baylor, who was off-duty and in plainclothes, drawing his gun and exchanging angry words with a crowd after his Hummer was pelted with snowballs.
Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier issued a statement Monday saying that it was "very obvious" that the detective pulled his weapon as a response to snowballs hitting his Hummer. Police did not officially identify Baylor as the officer involved.
"Let me be very clear in stating that I believe the actions of the officer were totally inappropriate!" Lanier wrote. "In no way, should he have handled the situation in this manner. We have taken swift action by placing him on non-contact status until all the facts are gathered and discipline is handed down."
Lanier also said that she had no doubt that the detective drew his weapon, "nor has the officer denied the accusations."
Reached by phone Monday, Baylor declined to comment. He said that he had not been interviewed by internal affairs officers and that it would be "inappropriate" to make a statement before giving his version of events to the department.
Police initially said Baylor was holding a cellphone, not a gun. Peter Newsham, an assistant police chief, said Monday that the first video reviewed by department officials showed Baylor holding a phone. He said officials later received additional footage that showed Baylor with a weapon in his hand.
Yousef Ali, 25, the digital strategy consultant who organized the snowball fight, said the police department "was definitely quick to make assumptions about what transpired without really reviewing the evidence." He said images posted online forced them to take a second look.
The incident unfolded Saturday when a crowd gathered for a snowball fight. Witnesses said the participants hurled some snowballs at passing vehicles.
Baylor pulled up in his maroon Hummer, according to video and witnesses. Video footage shows him standing outside the vehicle with a gun in his left hand. The crowd chanted: "You don't bring a gun to a snowball fight!"
One uniformed officer who arrived at the scene had a gun drawn at his side. Police said the officer acted appropriately because he was responding to a report of an armed man.
As the uniformed officer tried to calm the crowd, several people demanded the detective's name and badge number. Baylor acknowledged to them that he had pulled the gun because he had been hit by snowballs, video shows. As Baylor walked back to his car, witnesses said, he was struck by a snowball, and he ran back into the crowd and grabbed the man he thought had thrown it.
Kristopher Baumann, who heads the D.C. Labor Committee for the local Fraternal Order of Police, said Baylor contacted the union and will have representation during the department investigation.
Staff researcher Meg Smith and staff writer Matt Zapotosky contributed to this report.