Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Incident at Piney Branch & Univ. Blvd. Friday, July 16th


As you may have heard, there was a serious incident last Friday night in the area of Piney Branch and University Blvd. of Silver Spring. Unfortunately, a Silver Spring community member died in the incident and rumors are rampant about how the death occurred.

A vigil was held on site on Monday night. Over 100 community members attended to mourn the death, better understand what happened, and begin a healing process. Our Police, our Crisis Unit, and the Regional Center - and the Guatemalan Consulate - were there at the vigil, answering questions and talking with the community.

The individual that died left three children and his wife back in Guatemala, his homeland. The community has already begun to see how the body can be returned to Guatemala; you may hear more about this effort soon.

It is critically important in moments like this to come together as one community. A first step is a better, thorough understanding of what happened. Below is a statement from our Police Department with a level of detail that hopefully will clarify much.

I ASK A FAVOR OF YOU: Rather than simply 'forwarding this on' to listservs and blast e-mails, I ask you take the time to read this carefully so you can succinctly inform others that may not take the time to do read it as carefully.


1) Once the identity of Mr. Simone is confirmed (that has still not been completed), the body may be released immediately to a family member or person representing the family who has the power of attorney. The autopsy is complete and their staff has completed the task of examining the body itself. There will be another 3-6 weeks until the laboratory results are completed and that includes toxicology and other tests that will assist the medical examiner’s office reach a final conclusion as to the actual cause of death.

2) A senior supervisor in our major crimes investigation office, who is available to assist in connecting the family member or representative with the medical examiner’s office and help in navigating release of the body, is Sergeant John Sheridan at cell number 240-876-7153. He is familiar with the system, has some contacts in the examiner’s office and is familiar with this case enough to help with getting the body released to an authorized person.

3) Facts that are now available to share regarding the medical examiner’s initial findings upon review of the body are as follows:

a) There is no sign of trauma to the body which is recognized as a cause of death

b) There were no gunshot wounds to the body, either self-inflicted or by the police

The police genuinely wanted to help in securing and keeping the neighborhood safe and any persons who may have been in the apartment at the time of this event. Patrol Officers responded to complaints from citizens about the erratic and scary behavior of a person throwing objects out of his apartment (i.e. furniture, clothes, CD’s, anything he could get his hands on), in an agitated manner. Initial responding patrol officers arrived at this emergency and tried to make contact with the person responsible for this event (later determined we believe to be Mr. Simone). The door to the apartment was locked and they tried to gain entry and talk to the person inside but he had barricaded the front door from the inside and they smelled a strong odor of gas and felt that he may be attempting to blow up the building. At that point, they evacuated some of the neighbors and our emergency response team responded that includes incident command, negotiators, tactical members, logistical support, and a strong corps of medical support. We brought with us a medical doctor and an advanced paramedic, an ambulance and a fire command person who was able to assist in getting the gas line to this building shut off.

We had many assets on the scene of this event. At the command level we discuss options and make decisions as to our best means to deal with these difficult situations. In this case, although the suspect had been seen at that front window acting in an agitated state and throwing objects outside, he had not been seen for some time since the beginning. Following hours of trying to contact the suspect via telephone, loudspeaker and calling out to him (in both Spanish and English) and not having seen him for a couple hours, a decision to enter was made – for his benefit and others who may be affected by his actions. A gas meter was utilized to determine if there was still gas fumes in the air and it was determined they were not (there was an open window and the gas had been cut off for some time). After multiple attempts were made to reach him, a decision was made to enter. The apartment front door was a heavy wood door with metal frame and the roomate said he thought it was barricaded cause he could not get in with his key. When we breach a heavy duty door such as this, there is a lot of noise and commotion that is scary to those not familiar with what we do and why we do certain things.

Immediately upon entering the residence it was noted there were other interior doors that required securing and checking on and that led to more loud noises. We had a responsibility to check all persons inside the apartment that could have caused him or others harm. Mr. Simone, who had been throwing the objects out the window, was the only person located in the residence and he was laying under the window where he had last been seen by the initial police and complaining citizens. He was deceased and it appeared that he had been for a period of time. Despite that fact, our medical doctor and advanced paramedic responded inside and immediately upon our initial entry assessed the body and did an EKG on his heart to determine if any life-saving efforts could be initiated. There were no signs of life and no such efforts were appropriate.

To conclude, Mr. Simone was deceased prior to the entry of police into the apartment and once the laboratory results are returned there will be more information to discuss regarding the cause(s) of his death. We know that his death is unrelated to any actions taken by the police.

In terms of trust with the community it is important to note that all the units involved in this investigation are independent and impartial. For example, the medical examiner’s officer is a separate state agency from Montgomery County and our police department. By law, their findings are independent and not subject to our rules or influence. Our major crimes investigators are not related to our emergency response team and investigate cases like this independent of the ERT actions. They received statements from all involved, took pictures, collected evidence and continue their interviews of involved entities, internal and external to our agency. Their mission is to conduct an independent and neutral investigation.

As you can see, we brought a significant amount of expertise and resources to this challenging problem and situation, in an attempt to insure the safety of all occupants and persons affected by this event. We are saddened by the death of any community member and also, by the mistrust this event has caused among some community members. We care foremost about the truth of what occurred and will continue to work with those affected by this event. We hope to continue to meet to build the bond and trust between our department and the communities we serve. Perhaps we can build a positive and lasting bond through this tragedy and how we are handling this among our agencies and the communities so affected by this event.


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1 comment:

Tina said...

Thank you for posting this detailed account. It helps the community learn what transpired and is better than conjecture and speculation. Transparency really helps us all to be involved together.

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