Off-duty Montgomery officer shoots man in leg during traffic stop

Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 23, 2011; 9:47 PM

An off-duty Montgomery County police officer shot a man in the leg early Wednesday during a traffic stop as the man reached for his waistband, police said.

Officers later realized that he had stashed bags of marijuana there. He did not have a weapon, police said.

The incident happened about 1:30 a.m. in the 6500 block of Muncaster Mill Road in Rockville when an officer with the Maryland-National Capital Park Police stopped a burgundy 2002 Toyota Corolla because it did not have license plates in the right places.

Four men were in the car. When the officer approached, he smelled marijuana, police said. As he called for backup, a man in the back seat jumped out of the car and ran, officials said.

Montgomery officers arrived, and a police dog began searching for the man who fled. The park police officer was handcuffing the driver while an off-duty officer was talking to the men in the car. One of the men in the back of the car got out and, officers said, reached for his waistband. The off-duty officer ordered the man to comply with "commands that he refused to obey" and then fired her weapon several times, hitting him in the leg, officials said.

Police later determined that the man had individually wrapped packages of marijuana in his waistband, officials said.

The man was taken to a hospital and treated for injuries that were not life-threatening. The man who ran from the car was found nearby.

The man who was shot, Earl Bennette, 20, of Lost Knife Circle in Gaithersburg, was charged with possession with intent to distribute marijuana and related counts.

Branden Bennette, 22, of the same address, was charged with failure to attach plates at the front and rear of a vehicle, driving without a license and driving with a suspended license.

Tyrel Bennette, 18, of Ridgefield Drive in Severn was charged with possession of marijuana. Police said the three Bennettes are related but did not specify how.

A fourth person in the car was not charged.

The off-duty officer, who has been with the department for four years, was placed on administrative leave during the investigation. Officers declined to release her name.

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