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Greenbelt officers won’t be charged in shooting of man with knife

The two officers have returned to full duty after shooting and injuring a man who reportedly was suicidal

Greenbelt police cars are seen outside the department in Prince George's County on May 11. (Jasmine Hilton/The Washington Post)

Two police officers who shot and injured a man in May have returned to full duty and will not be charged for their actions, Greenbelt police said Wednesday.

The city’s police department closed its internal investigation Tuesday and found that the officers’ use of force was “within departmental policy” in the shooting of Kenneth Lee Littlefield, 46, police said in a statement. Littlefield was armed with a knife and reportedly suicidal, according to police.

The department received a letter June 21 from the Office of the State’s Attorney for Prince George’s County indicating that the office was declining to prosecute the officers, police said.

Acting sergeant Troy Arnold and Officer Eric Thomas had been placed on paid administration leave, police said. Prince George’s County police have arrested and charged Littlefield with assault, dangerous weapon with the intent to injure, and concealing a dangerous weapon.

Littlefield’s attorney, Peter Fayne, said in a statement Wednesday that the incident shows the need to address the lack of resources for individuals struggling with mental health issues.

“Diverting these individuals away from incarceration and toward more appropriate and competent community-based mental health care is an essential strategy providing people the support they need and to eliminate unnecessary involvement in the criminal justice system,” he said.

Body-cam footage shows Greenbelt police shooting man who had knife

The incident that led to the shooting began about 10:30 a.m. May 2, when police responded to a residence in the unit block of Plateau Place in Greenbelt for a report of a “suicidal adult male,” police said. Littlefield made the call.

The officers’ body-camera footage showed that Littlefield opened the door with a knife in his hand.

After repeated commands to drop the knife, Littlefield stepped out of the doorway holding it, and both officers fired, the footage showed. Each officer fired five shots, according to police. The incident, from the first knock on the door by police to the last shot fired, lasted 21 seconds.

Littlefield was taken to a hospital and later released.

Police have said that they do not plan to release the body-camera footage to the public.

“The officers reacted to a quickly unfolding set of events which left little time to talk to the subject in a meaningful way,” Greenbelt Police Chief Richard Bowers said in Wednesday’s police statement “As this incident unfolded, the officers were able to immediately shift to providing medical care, which likely saved Littlefield’s life.”

The State’s Attorney Office’s Public Integrity Unit, which handles cases involving police, also reviewed the incident. The office declined to prosecute the case because “the shooting was legally justified,” Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy (D) said in a statement.

An independent use-of-force expert also reviewed the case and found the force justified, she said.

Littlefield’s attorney says he is “getting the support he needs to deal with the issues that have brought him into the criminal justice system.”

“We are hopeful that in the end, this case can be resolved in a manner that addresses those underlying issues facing Mr. Littlefield,” Fayne said.

Efforts to reach Littlefield’s family were unsuccessful.

Since the shooting, a licensed clinician has been added to a newly created crisis intervention team at the Greenbelt Police Department. That person goes with officers to calls involving mental health issues, said police spokeswoman Hannah Glasgow. The clinician also follows up with additional resources.

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