A veteran Baltimore City SWAT officer is under investigation after an argument over kneeling for the national anthem led to an encounter with police in Carroll County, the WBAL-TV 11 News I-Team has learned.
The argument — and suspicion that the city police officer was impaired while on call and using an SUV carrying SWAT guns — took place just after midnight Saturday in Westminster, according to police.
Westminster police were called to a Denny’s restaurant for disorderly customers. Customers were reported to be arguing over NFL players kneeling for the national anthem, police said.
In the parking lot, Westminster police encountered a customer identified as Bryant Russell. In a report, an officer wrote, “I detected a moderate odor of alcoholic beverage emitting from his person and exhaled breath. Further, I noticed his eyes were glassy and bloodshot. His speech was slurred as he talked.”
Police had been told the group had been drinking at a wedding before going to Denny’s.
Russell responded, according to the reports, “He was a Baltimore City police officer. You’re not going to intimidate me or threaten me.”
Westminster police were concerned Russell was going to drive.
“I advised if I observed him operating the vehicle, he would be placed under arrest for driving under the influence, at which time he replied, ‘Don’t threaten me,’ and again advised he was an officer,” according to the Westminster police officer’s report.
The vehicle Russell was using wasn’t his personal car but a black SUV owned by the Police Department and used by SWAT officers.
In their report, police said, “Russell advised there are ‘guns in the vehicle,’ and that he was on call, and could drive the vehicle anywhere in the state,” the report said.
A Baltimore Police Department policy governs the use of so-called take home vehicles: They are to be used only for official duties and responsibilities, and officers who have them can’t exhibit conduct that discredits BPD.
Westminster police did not arrest Russell. They did not see him drive. The officers were sent to another call. When they returned to Denny’s, Russell and the SUV were gone.
A spokesman for the Baltimore Police Department said the incident is under investigation by Internal Affairs.
Russell is not on any type of suspension. It is not known how the city-owned SUV was taken from the parking lot at Denny’s after Westminster police left.
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