On May 11, a Fairfax County Police officer shot and killed Brandon Jerome Lemagne, 38, of Newport News, Va.
A felony traffic stop by an FCPD officer in the Mount Vernon District on May 11 began by detaining Lemagne to further the investigation. The incident quickly escalates and leads the officer to call out, "Signal 1. Signal 1, Signal 1, He’s going for my gun … Sir, get off my gun."
A license plate reader alerted officers to a stolen U-Haul in the area. An officer saw the U-Haul in the 6300 block of Richmond Highway, in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County. Lemagne pulled the U-Haul into the gas station parking lot, exited the vehicle then walked away. The officer can be seen on surveillance footage speaking with Lemagne then the two walk towards the officer’s cruiser. The officer told Lemagne he was going to be detained for driving the stolen U-Haul. Lemagne then attacked the officer.
The Fairfax County Police Department held a Press Conference on May 25. Katherine Hayek, director of public affairs at FCPD, says, “The following is a simultaneous compilation of the body-worn camera footage from the three officers directly involved.” The department shows the OIS 5.11.23 BWC (Body Worn Camera ) Release Video and makes it available to the community. It runs for 10 minutes and 10 seconds. In the video shown at the police press conference, the body worn camera (BWC) footage from the officer who was attacked and abducted is identified as "BWC Officer #1."
According to Lt. James Curry, Public Affairs FCPD, who responded on Sunday, June 4, "The packaged release shared with the community on May 25 was intended to show the perspective of the officers involved in the assault, abduction, and rescue efforts of their fellow officer. It is important to see the incident through the eyes of the officer. We understand and respect the desire of the community to see all angles … That is why we share the full body-worn camera release as well."
Consistent with department policy, FCPD also releases the names of the officers involved in the shooting who discharged their firearms. They are Master Police Officer Kenyatta Momon, a 24-year veteran (whose body-worn camera is Officer #3), and Police Officer First Class Christopher Grubb, an 8-year veteran of the department (whose body-worn camera is Officer #2). Both officers are assigned to the Mount Vernon District Station and are on restricted duty status until the investigation is complete.
Curry adds, "When Chief Davis joined FCPD, a 30-day body camera release policy was implemented. FCPD is committed to being transparent during critical incident investigations.”
The video shown at the press conference, however, does not show a clear, close-up image of Lemagne being shot or all the perspectives leading up to that. This article looks at the perspective presented at the press conference and the perspective shown on the second FCPD body worn camera (BWC) video, FCPD OIS: 5.11.23 Full BWC Release Video https://youtu.be/M_bfuDedWhI
The perspective of the officers in this video shows a clear view of the fatal shooting for the public to assess transparency and accountability.
However, it is challenging to find the second video on the FCPD website due to the circuitous route required. Without a direct link, provided here by the Connection, one interested in viewing the video must go to the "Critical Incident Updates" link on the department’s home page, go to that page, and then select May 2023 updates. From there, the viewer finds the sentence in the text below the video box: "For the link to the unedited version of the body camera footage, click here."
The second video is 11 minutes and 28 seconds long. It holds body-worn camera footage from multiple officers, including Officer #2, Grubb, and Officer #4. Grubb’s video shows him shooting across the gas station parking lot and toward the FCPD SUV that has halted beside the windows of a McDonald's. Eighteen pops consistent with gunfire can be heard, and community members are visible beyond.
Momon runs toward the FCPD SUV with Lemagne inside and the abducted officer beneath him, both in the front seat. It shows Momon at the SUV and events through the fatal shots that left Lemagne pronounced dead at the scene. It also has footage from Officer #3 and Officer #4.
Another officer goes to check on Lemagne after he is shot. “He’s 10-61. Don’t worry about him, He’s dead,” says Momon at 9:21 of 11:28. Officer #4 video cam captures the abducted officer coming out of his FCPD SUV, grabbed by Momon, who helps him around Lemagne body. ”Come here, brother, Let’s go,” cries out Momon (10:20/11/28). Questions from other officers swim around the victim officer. Blood is on his arm. (10:59:11:28)
On Sunday, June 4, the FCPD body cam and surveillance video released at the news conference had "29K views 9 days ago," according to its post, the second, complete video had “116 views 9 days ago.”
What is the significance of the second body cam footage, the FCPD OIS: 5.11.23 Full BWC Release Video?
Officer #2 and Officer #4’s body cam footage in the second FCPD video could undermine the department's claims of transparency and accountability. According to the FY 2024 Fairfax County Advertised Budget Plan, "Community trust is built incrementally with each interaction the FCPD has with all community members." Examples of continuous outreach opportunities, communication and data transparency, and accountability measures include the "Body-Worn Camera Program."
"I often say that these body-worn camera videos speak for themselves," Davis says. The perpetrator Lemagne was trying to dislodge his gun from the officer’s holster; the officer was assaulted and taken hostage. Davis tells how the perpetrator kept his foot on the gas pedal of the officer’s SUV, the engine revving even after it crashed. "He’s not done," says Davis.
Davis puts the potential to harm others and the accountability in the chaotic scene "squarely on the perpetrator. … He chose to do this. In my opinion, his intent, rather, was to kill that police officer. … The two responding officers (Master Police Officer Kenyatta Momon and Police Officer First Class Christopher Grubb, who discharged their firearms), I believe, [their actions] were more than appropriate given what we know then and now."
Neutrality until an investigation is complete in such situations is considered a best practice.
Davis then states the investigation is ongoing and will answer questions. "Some of them are forensic questions with forensic answers. So the investigation is not complete. The investigation is ongoing."
Highlights of the Second Video's Content
An early segment of the second video, content not included in the press conference, FCPD OIS 5.11.23 Full BWC Release Video, shows Officer #2, Christopher Grubb, exiting his cruiser at (4:52/11:28). He holds his gun in front of him with both hands. A volley of 18 pops, consistent with gunfire, is heard. Grubb is aiming his weapon across the gas station parking lot and toward the FCPD SUV, which is speeding backward and striking two vehicles and a business. The driver's door is open, and the suspect, Lemagne, is inside, as is the abducted officer, who is beneath Lemagne who is still attempting to pull the officer's service revolver from his holster. The weapon has two restraints.
Officer Momon is shown at the crashed FCPD SUV at (5:15/11:28) on Officer #2's body cam. Momon's gun is drawn, the SUV's back wheel is still spinning, and smoke is rising from it. The car has come to a halt halfway in a parking lot tree bed, right next to the sidewalk, beneath the windows of a McDonald's.
At (5:24/11:28), Momon is seen reaching into the open driver's door of the FCPD SUV and grabbing Lemagne's black clothing. Momon yanks him from the SUV. Lemagne's legs and arms fly up as he tumbles. In the video frames, Lemagne's left and right hands are empty, and he lands on his side. Momon immediately bends down and presses the barrel of his gun against what appears to be the lower neck of Lemagne. Three gunshot-like pops can be heard and the visual depicts blood flowing above Lemagne's left temple at ( /11:28). On the ground, Lemagne is motionless.
The abducted officer staggers out the driver's door of his FCPD SUV, Lemagne's body is directly in front of him. Momon says, "Don't worry about him [Lemagne] ... he's dead.”
According to Curry, FCPD had six officer-involved shootings in 2022, with three officer-involved shootings this year. The department asked the Police Executive Research Forum to prepare a report about the increase in these incidents. “Once finalized, FCPD will share the results of the Police Executive Research Forum’s (PERF) report on its platforms. We hope the report will be finalized in the coming month,” Curry said.Chief Kevin Davis and the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) have agreed to an examination of Officer Involved Shooting (OIS) incidents in Fairfax County since the start of 2021. PERF will examine incident details and identify any performance patterns, deficiencies, or trends. PERF will also provide FCPD with guidance regarding foot pursuit policy from best practices across the nation. PERF will share training and policy recommendations to ensure FCPD continues to adopt industry best practices. PERF will begin its work immediately and will present its findings and recommendations to FCPD in a brief report. Chief Davis will share the findings and recommendations with the Board of Supervisors and the community.