COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Maryland prosecutors have ruled out criminal charges against any police officers in the shooting death of a man whose family says he was sleeping in his bed next to his girlfriend when police opened fire, an attorney for the family said Thursday.
Howard County State’s Attorney Rich Gibson Jr. informed the parents and girlfriend of 21-year-old Duncan Socrates Lemp of the decision during a meeting conducted remotely, family attorney Rene Sandler told The Associated Press.
Gibson’s office concluded that police in neighbouring Montgomery County were justified in using deadly force against Lemp, Sandler said. Members of a tactical unit were serving a “no-knock” search warrant at the Lemp family’s home about 4:30 a.m. on March 12 when an officer fatally shot him.
A spokeswoman for Gibson’s office didn’t immediately respond to a phone call and text message seeking comment on the decision.
Sandler said the family, who is also represented by lawyer Jon Fellner, is “extremely disappointed that prosecutors declined to charge for the murder of their son.”
“In reaching their conclusion, they had to unfortunately ignore very important facts from eyewitnesses,” she added. Sandler said the family likely will “initiate legal action right away against everyone involved, everyone responsible.”
Lemp’s shooting galvanized a loose network of gun-toting, anti-government extremists promoting the “boogaloo,” a slang term for a second civil war or collapse of civilization. Many “boogaloo” movement promoters have hailed Lemp as a martyr and turned his name into a hashtag campaign on social media.
Lemp’s girlfriend and parents say the software engineer was asleep in his bedroom when police fired at him from outside the house in Potomac, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C., according to Sandler.
The family’s account contradicts a statement issued by Montgomery County police. The department has said Lemp was armed with a rifle and ignored commands to show his hands and get on the floor when officers entered his family’s home.
The nascent “boogaloo” movement has been linked to a string of domestic terrorism plots and has been promoted by white supremacists, but many supporters insist they’re not truly advocating for violence. A post on Lemp’s Instagram account shortly before his death depicted two people holding up rifles and included the term “boogaloo,” which derives from the name of a 1980s-era movie sequel.
On social media accounts, Lemp’s username was “YungQuant.” On an internet forum called “My Militia,” a user identifying himself as Duncan Lemp, of Potomac, and posting under the username “yungquant” said he was “an active III%’r and looking for local members & recruits.” That’s an apparent reference to the Three Percenters, a wing of the militia movement.
Lemp’s parents, Mercedes and Matt Lemp, told The Associated Press in October that their son wasn’t a threat to the tactical unit officers who stormed their house. They also don’t believe he was part of any extremist movement.
Mercedes Lemp recalled her son mentioning “boog bois,” but she was skeptical of claims her son was a boogaloo supporter.
“It definitely gives me a bit of uneasiness because it’s not a true representation,” she said.
Lemp’s family maintains the police department’s account of the shootings isn’t consistent with the physical evidence. They’ve said police initiated gunfire and shot flash bangs through Lemp’s bedroom window. His parents said they awoke to what sounded like an explosion and shattering glass as officers rushed inside.
A police statement about the shooting in March says the officer who fatally shot Lemp was placed on administrative leave “per standard protocol.”
The department has said officers identified themselves as police and gave Lemp “multiple orders” to show his hands and comply with commands to get on the floor.
“Lemp refused to comply with the officer’s commands and proceeded towards the interior bedroom door where other officers were located,” a police statement says. “Upon entrance by officers into the Lemp’s bedroom, Lemp was found to be in possession of a rifle and was located directly in front of the interior bedroom entrance door.”
Police haven’t disclosed whether there are any body camera videos of the shooting. The department’s statements haven’t specified when Lemp was fatally shot during its account of the raid or from where the officer fired a fatal shot.
Lemp’s bedroom also had an exterior door where authorities found a “booby trap” affixed to the frame, designed to fire a shotgun shell at anyone entering the room from outside the home, according to police.
Detectives obtained the no-knock warrant to search the home Lemp shared with his parents and younger brother after receiving an anonymous tip that Lemp was illegally possessing firearms, police said. Lemp had a criminal record as a juvenile that made it illegal for him to legally possess or buy firearms in Maryland until he turned 30, according to police.
Police detectives recovered three rifles and two handguns from the home.
Howard County prosecutors reviewed Lemp’s death because they have an agreement with their Montgomery County counterparts to review police shootings that happen in each other’s jurisdiction.
Michael Kunzelman, The Associated Press