An off-duty D.C. police officer dressed in civilian clothes said he was inappropriately searched, tackled and hit in the face by Prince George’s County Police officers who were looking for a gunman near the Iverson Mall on Tuesday afternoon.
Officer Robert Parker Jr., a five-year veteran assigned to the District’s Harbor Patrol dive team, said the Prince George’s County Police sergeant who initially detained him patted him down without warning and without proper justification. He said that the sergeant acted “too quick” and that he didn’t have a chance to identify himself as an officer until the sergeant felt his weapon and took him to the ground.
Prince George’s County Police defended the officers, noting that Parker fit the description of a man who had just shot and wounded someone in the mall parking lot. County police said Parker did not identify himself as an officer until after he was restrained. They said they have reviewed audio of the incident.
Parker, 28, said he yelled he was an officer just as the sergeant found the gun under his shirt and black hoodie. By then, Parker, who is black, said that two other officers rushed in and that one or both hit him in the right side of his face, causing swelling. He said his leg and left hand also were injured. The sergeant and one officer are black; the other officer is white.
Parker said he has hired an attorney and plans to file a formal complaint.
Asked whether he thought the stop was handled the way it was because he was black, Parker said: “I never want to be the person to say that. But unfortunately, that’s what it was. . . . I thought, if I were in another neighborhood, if I were someone else, if the lookout was for a white guy in a hoodie and I was white, I don’t think I would have been approached like that. I think I would have been given a lot more courtesy.”
Police stopped Parker around 1 p.m., moments after the shooting outside the mall that prompted the lockdown of two nearby schools. Prince George’s police on Wednesday afternoon said they were looking for Nicco Rashaad Young, 20, of Temple Hills. Young was involved in a dispute with the shooting victim, police said.
Lt. Dave Coleman, a spokesman for Prince George’s County Police, said officials have conducted a preliminary review of the encounter with Parker. “We believe our officer acted professionally and with restraint,” he said. “This encounter took place within several minutes of the shooting being reported at Iverson Mall and occurred three blocks from the shooting scene.”
Parker matched the description of the suspect, broadcast over the radio as a black man in blue jeans with a black top, Coleman said. Parker said he was wearing blue jeans and a black jacket over a black hoodie.
Given the similar descriptions of the two men, Parker’s proximity to the scene and the timing of the shooting, a Prince George’s sergeant who spotted Parker conducted an investigatory stop, which allows officers to act quickly to protect the community, Coleman said.
“We’re in an active search for a shooter,” Coleman said. “Every second is of the essence.”
During a pat-down, Coleman said, the officer discovered that Parker had a gun in his waistband.
“At that point, our officer took the man to the ground during a brief struggle. It was only after the man was restrained by the original officer and backup officers did he identify himself as a police officer.”
Coleman couldn’t detail exactly how much time elapsed between the start of Parker’s encounter with Prince George’s police and when he was taken to the ground, but “he had plenty of time to identify himself as a police officer.”
Coleman said the department made several attempts to speak with Parker after the encounter and eventually spoke with him later that afternoon at his home. Coleman said the department is conducting a standard use-of-force review. Any allegation of excessive force would be reviewed after the department received an official complaint.
Parker, whose father recently retired from the D.C. force after 30 years, 20 as a homicide detective, said he had dropped his car off at a repair shop and was stopped by the officers at Iverson Road and 25th Avenue, two blocks from his home.
Parker said he had seen county police cruisers and suspected something had happened. He also said the sergeant passed him once and slowed, then returned and stopped him.
“I kept my hands out and to the mid-side of my body,” Parker said. “My hands were visible, out to my side.” He said the sergeant told him: “I’ve seen you out here walking earlier. We’re looking for somebody, and we want to make sure you’re good.”
Parker said the sergeant immediately “walked up to me and started patting me down.”
“I was in disbelief,” Parker said. “He didn’t tell me what for. He feels my gun, and I said, ‘I’m a police officer.’ At that moment, he took me to the ground.”
An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the sergeant as white. He is black.
Cheryl W. Thompson also contributed to this report.