The Montgomery County Police Department SWAT team officer who was not charged in the fatal shooting of a Potomac man March 12, 2020 has returned to fulltime duty.
Following a lengthy investigation by the Howard County State’s Attorney’s Office, the officer was cleared of any wrongdoing. His actions were declared “reasonable under the circumstances” as 21-year-old Duncan Socrates Lemp was “retrieving a rifle and pointing it at the officer” and refused to obey the officer’s commands at the time of the shooting, according to a 17-page report.
Therefore, Howard County officials ruled that the shooting was justified.
About 10 days before the raid, police obtained a high risk, no-knock search warrant, because they believed Lemp had firearms where he resided with his family on St. James Road in Potomac. Due to an incident when he was a juvenile, Lemp was prohibited from possessing firearms, and police believed he had at least one assault weapon, according to the report.
The information about Lemp came from confidential sources about a month before the raid, according to the report. Following up on that information, police found postings on Instagram and militia.com from Lemp, including a posting in which he was recruiting for Three Percenters, where he was a known member. According to the ADL (Anti-Defamation League), Three Percenters is a militia movement that considers itself protectors of Americans from government tyranny.
Members of the Montgomery Couny Special Operations Tactical Unit surrounded the home at 4:30 a.m on March 12. In what they called a Brake and Rake, some officers entered the house by using a battering ram while others entered through a window in the garage into the bedroom where Lemp and his girlfriend were sleeping.
As they entered, officers also threw flash bangs in an attempt to disorient Lemp, according to the report.
The officer who first entered the bedroom shot five times, each bullet struck Lemp, who then fell, blocking the French door that separated the converted garage from the main house.
Lemp’s girlfriend started screaming but cooperated with police, according to the report.
After Lemp was killed, a police officer walked through the house, photographing evidence. The officers who entered the house originally, including the one who shot Lemp, were not equipped with body cameras which is not uncommon for SWAT team entries.
Police found loaded firearms and magazines on Lemp’s night stand next to his bed, atop his desk and on a table between a couch and television. They also found a bulletproof vest and a 3D printer, according to the report. The vest had a “Boogaloo Boys” patch on the front. Boogaloo Boys is a far right anti-government, pro gun rights group.
Police located a booby trap, which was described as “a metal cylinder containing a shotgun shell and secured by a tripwire.” It was placed so that when anyone opened the door, it would have exploded.
Other evidence included interviews with Lemp’s mother and girlfriend and text messages retrieved from Lemp’s phone. In texts between Lemp and his mother, Lemp noted, “I’ve accepted the inevitability and made peace with my demise.” He also wrote, “At least I’ll go down kicking.”
According to Grand Jury testimony by his girlfriend, she acknowledged Lemp picked up his rifle. She thought Lemp had fired it about six times, but during the investigation, police found that his rifle had not been fired.
Howard County’s State’s Attorney’s Office called her remarks similar to the report of the officer who shot Lemp. “To a certain degree,” Lemp’s girlfriend and the officer corroborated each other, according to the report.
As for charges that the police shot through the window before entering the house, the report said there was no proof of that as the blinds covering the window were not damaged. The report also stated that it would have been better if the officers had used cameras during the raid, as it “may have shed better light on the incident.”
The investigation had been turned over to the Howard County State’s Attorney’s Office, as is the normal procedure, to avoid Montgomery County officials from investigating their own and to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest.