Investigation and Review of December Police-Involved Shooting Completed; Charges Will Not Be Filed Against Officers

by MCS Staff
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On December 29, 2021, there was a police-involved shooting in the area of Wayne Avenue and Dartmouth Avenue in Silver Spring. Four officers with the Montgomery County Police Department discharged their service weapons at Sesay, who was struck. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The officers involved were Officer Karli Dorsey, Officer Eric Kessler, Officer Nathan Lenhart, and Officer Dennis Tejada.

The complete report released by the Attorney General’s Office following its investigation, which took place over the last several months, can be accessed below. The report was written by the Office of the Attorney General Independent Investigations Division and any redactions were made by the Office of the Attorney General in preparation for public release. Pursuant to an agreement between the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office and the Howard County State’s Attorney’s Office, based upon a thorough review of the report it is the opinion of the Howard County State’s Attorney’s Office that the actions of the shooting officers on December 29, 2021, were reasonable under the circumstances. Accordingly, the Office of the State’s Attorney for Howard County declines to file charges against the involved officers.

Office of the State’s Attorney of Howard County Report: On December 29, 2021 at approximately 4:25 a.m., an off-duty Montgomery County Police Department (“MCPD”) officer was alerted to a shooting in front of a restaurant at 904 Bonifant Street in Silver Spring, Maryland. The off-duty officer relayed a description of the shooting suspect’s car, which he received from bystanders, to on-duty MCPD officers who were responding to the scene. At 4:29 a.m., officers observed a car matching that description driving in the area of Wayne Avenue and Dartmouth Avenue, about a half mile away from the shooting scene. Officer Nathan Lenhart conducted a traffic stop as additional officers responded. During the traffic stop, a man later identified as Osman Sesay got out of the rear passenger-side of the car, against officers’ orders, and pointed a handgun at officers. Four officers fired their guns at Mr. Sesay, who was struck. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

This report details the IID’s investigative findings based on a review of body-worn camera (“BWC”) footage, officer and civilian interviews, DNA and firearm analysis, the autopsy report, and personnel records for the officers involved. All materials reviewed in this investigation are being provided to the Howard County State’s Attorney’s Office with this report and are listed in Appendix A.

This report also includes an analysis of Maryland statutes that may be relevant in a police-involved shooting death of this nature. The IID considered the elements of each possible charge, MCPD departmental policies, and Maryland case law to assess whether any charge could be supported by the facts of this incident. Because the Howard County State’s Attorney’s Office —not the Attorney General’s Office—retains prosecution authority in this case, this report does not make any recommendations as to whether any individual should or should not be charg

On Wednesday, December 29, 2021, in the early morning hours, Mr. Sesay and two friends, ______ and ______ , went to Sweet Sweet Kitchen at 904 Bonifant Street in Silver Spring. According to witness interviews, the three were coming from an earlier party at a location on Georgia Avenue. Interior video surveillance from Sweet Sweet Kitchen shows Mr. and Ms. entered the restaurant at 4:07 a.m. and Mr. Sesay entered at 4:15 a.m. A minute after Mr. Sesay entered the restaurant, another individual, ______ , entered the restaurant and walked behind the counter. Mr. Sesay and Mr. are seen arguing at 4:16 a.m. and again at 4:20 a.m. At 4:21 a.m., restaurant security removed Mr. ______ from the restaurant. One minute later, Mr. Sesay and his friends, Mr. ______ and Ms. ______  all exit the restaurant together.

Around this time, off-duty MCPD Detective Artemis Goode arrived at Sweet Sweet Kitchen to pick up something to eat. In a subsequent interview with the IID, Detective Goode reported seeing a large commotion upon his arrival at the restaurant. He put on an outer vest covering identifying him as police, walked up to the crowd, and began to advise people to back away. At 4:25 a.m., he radioed for additional units, as two men were continuing to fight.

In his interview, Detective Goode noted there was a SUV parked in front of where he was standing, and he suddenly heard a single gunshot from the opposite side of the SUV.2 At that time, an individual, later identified as Mr. ______ came from behind the SUV, holding his left side, and walked up to Detective Goode.3 Detective Goode sat Mr. ______ on the ground in front of him and began to scan the crowd. Detective Goode reported that the scene was chaotic, and people continued to fight following the gunshot.

Detective Goode had observed a black Camry quickly leave the scene, traveling the wrong way on a one-way street. He initially believed it may have been involved in the shooting, so he broadcast the vehicle description to other officers. Immediately after this, however, witnesses said the shooter was in a white Mercedes. At this time, Detective Goode observed a white Mercedes driving around patrol vehicles that had responded to the scene. At 4:28 a.m., Detective Goode radioed the description of the white Mercedes to responding units.

At the same time, MCPD Officer Nathan Lenhart had stopped a black Camry that matched the initial vehicle description from Detective Goode. Officer Lenhart’s BWC footage shows that he then saw a white Mercedes drive by the location of the black Camry traffic stop. Officer Lenhart left the black Camry and pursued the white Mercedes. At approximately 4:29 a.m., Officer Lenhart stopped the white Mercedes at Wayne Avenue and Dartmouth Avenue, which is approximately a half mile from Sweet Sweet Kitchen.

Officer Lenhart can be seen on body-camera footage getting out of his patrol car and telling the driver of the white Mercedes to roll down his window. It is unknown if the driver complied with this command. Approximately one minute later, MCPD Officer Eric Kessler arrived at the scene, along with additional back-up units from MCPD. Officer Lenhart got on his car’s public address system and again instructed the driver of the vehicle, later identified as Mr. ______ to roll down the window, turn off the engine, and keep his hands visible to officers. Officers then instructed the driver to put both hands outside of the window and to reach from the outside to open the car door. Officer Lenhart’s patrol car camera shows that Mr. ______ and the front seat passenger, later identified as Ms. ______ , both placed their hands outside the car windows.

At that moment, at approximately 4:32 a.m., the rear passenger, later identified as Mr. Sesay, opened the rear passenger-side door and stepped out of the car. He is visible on the camera footage standing up and aiming a firearm in the direction of officers who were standing by the patrol cars that were parked to the rear of the white Mercedes. It is not possible to determine from the camera footage whether Mr. Sesay fired the gun.

For the next several seconds, four of the officers—Officers Lenhart, Kessler, Karli Dorsey, and Dennis Tejada—fired their service weapons at Mr. Sesay. Officer Lenhart, who was determined to have fired two shots that struck Mr. Sesay, was in front of the other officers and positioned just to the right of the front passenger-side door of his patrol car, which was the closest vehicle to the white Mercedes. Officer Kessler was standing to the left of the front driver- side door of that same patrol car, and Officers Dorsey and Tejada appeared to be standing behind and to the right of Officer Lenhart on a grassy area in front of a residence on Wayne Avenue. Two additional MCPD officers—Officers Cecil Williams and Avery Wood—were also present at the time of the shooting but did not fire their service weapons.

Body-worn camera footage from officers on scene shows that when officers stopped shooting, Officer Lenhart screamed for nobody to move. Officer Kessler stated that the suspect, Mr. Sesay, was “down the street,” and another officer indicated that the Mr. Sesay was “on the ground.” Officers confirmed that no officers were hit by gunfire. Officers then called out for officers with long guns and officers with shields to come to the scene to assist in getting out the other occupants of the car. Officers also called for fire and rescue services. Officers did not yet approach Mr. Sesay, who was lying on the ground in front of the white Mercedes.

At approximately 4:34 a.m., officers yelled for the remaining occupants of the vehicle to listen to instructions. Officers decided to get the driver, Mr. ______  out of the car first. He was instructed to open the driver-side door from the outside. Mr. ______ indicated to officers that the driver-side door was stuck, and officers instructed him to climb out of the driver-side window hands first. Mr. ______  complied with this order. He was then instructed to walk backwards toward MCPD officers, and he again complied. He was then placed in handcuffs. While officers were dealing with Mr. ______ an officer noted that Mr. Sesay “is moving, his hand is moving” and noted that “he still has the gun with him.” Ms. ______  , the front-seat passenger, was removed from the car and taken into custody in the same manner as Mr. ______ , and they were transported to police headquarters to be interviewed.

Report continued here.

Link to body worn camera video released by the Maryland Office of the Attorney General on January 12, 2022: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EXk_CAETqOA

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