Hyattsville police were called to the area after someone in a coffee shop called to report that a man accused of assaulting an employee with a metal pole a few days ago returned to the store Thursday morning armed, Chief Amal Awad said.
When police arrived, they saw the man — who police identified as Leonard Shand, 49, of New Carrollton — armed with two knives, Awad said.
Officers tried to negotiate with the man and “contain him” as they moved through about a quarter mile of the shopping center, bustling during the morning rush hours with commuters and children getting dropped off at a school nearby, police said.
At one point, Awad said, three stun guns were deployed to stop the man, but they weren’t effective. Another officer, she said, then used pepper spray. A supervisor then responded to the scene and fired nonlethal bean bags at Shand to no effect, Awad said.
“Officers were attempting with nonlethal force to get this person to drop his weapons,” Awad said. Officers from Prince George’s and Mount Rainier eventually join the scene, police said.
At one point, Shand said he “embraces death,” Awad said. She said he addressed the supervisor holding the weapon that fired beanbags, saying, “I’m going to get you.” Another officer then used a “flash bang” to distract the man as the supervisor fired bean bags again, police said.
Shortly after, “the suspect charges at our officer with both knives,” Awad said.
That is when 10 officers surrounding Shand fired at him, police said. Six of the officers who fired were from Hyattsville, three from Prince George’s police and one from Mount Rainier, police said.
Prince George’s County police released photos of two knives they said were “recovered from the suspect” at the scene.
Family for Shand could not be immediately reached.
On Friday, officials named the three Prince George’s County police officers involved in the incident. They were Sgt. David Cheatham, Officer Dario Daniel and Officer Kesha Nsiah-Ababio, who are assigned to the agency’s patrol bureau.
Officials said Cheatham is a 19-year veteran, Daniel has been with the agency for about two years and Nsiah-Ababio for about 1 1/2 years. They are on administrative leave during an investigating, which is standard procedure.
The ACLU of Maryland issued a statement Thursday criticizing how police handled the shooting after residents in the area posted video of portions of the encounter and the shooting on social media. The statement questioned whether police called a “health professional” to “peacefully de-escalate the situation.” The statement also questioned whether police created a dangerous situation by using the flash bang, which the ACLU says caused the armed man to run toward police and prompted the shooting.
“Running away from an exploding flashbang grenade is a natural and inevitable response,” the statement said.
Prince George’s Police Chief Hank Stawinski said, “There were eight different less-than-lethal tools — bean bags, pepper spray and three Tasers — and for some reason, none of those . . . took effect.”
Stawinski said officers fired to protect the supervisor Shand was charging toward with knives.
“Those weapons pose a real threat,” Stawinski said of the knives recovered at the scene. Knives can penetrate officers’ body armor or cause lethal injuries, Stawinski said.
Officials said that some of the county’s officers had body cameras on at the time and that there was also footage of the incident from a police car.
Court records show Shand had been charged with assault, robbery and other counts in an unrelated incident from May 2018 when he was in an altercation with a New Carrollton police officer at a Starbucks. A Starbucks employee reported that Shand had approached a man in the store on May 3 and asked for a cigarette, charging documents state. The man said he didn’t have a cigarette, and Shand threatened him with a knife, saying, “I’m going to slash your neck,” charging documents state. The next day, Shand was back at the store and a Starbucks manager alerted police, according to the documents. As the officer approached Shand, the two men got into a physical altercation.
Shand was set to go to trial in the case in May, but the charges were dropped. Court records do not indicate why the case was dismissed.
Shand wrote several letters to the court related to his New Carrollton case in 2018, saying the altercation at the Starbucks was an attempted murder on his life and he was being wrongly charged as the person who was stabbed.
“I will use every legal method available to protect myself from criminals in possitions of government representatives trying to murder me,” Shand wrote in one of the letters. “These legal methods will include using my second amendment right to organize militia to detain, arrest or kill all recognized hostile and potencial hostile threats to my person.”
Eddy Palanzo contributed to this report.