OXON HILL — An officer with the Prince George’s County Police Department (PGPD) has been suspended following the recording and release of a video of a former NBA star being questioned while handcuffed, authorities said.
The officer responded to a report of a fight on Oxon Hill Road on the morning of Jan. 20 that involved two men, one of whom being Delonte West, a former NBA guard who began as a standout at Eleanor Roosevelt High School.
PGPD said that on Jan. 21, shortly after noon, they learned that a PGPD officer recorded the video circulating on social media, showing West in handcuffs.
“The circumstances surrounding the recording and release of that video are now the subject of an internal investigation,” PGPD said. “That officer is now suspended pending the outcome of this investigation.”
After the incident, PGPD patrol officers began an on-scene investigation then called detectives to come to the scene to continue the investigation, which lasted 45 minutes, Chief Hank Stawinski said.
When officials arrived on the scene, the two men were already separated and no longer involved in a physical altercation, PGPD said.
The officers spoke to both men and an independent witness at the scene who said she saw both men fighting and told officers that she observed that the handcuffed male (West) first hit the other with a glass bottle. The man responded by striking the one who threw the bottle several times, officials said.
A portion of the fight, which depicts what appears to show West helplessly lying on the ground, was recorded on a cell phone by a witness. The footage quickly spread on social media.
When officers spoke to both males, they learned that the men knew one another. According to PGPD, the two had also been involved in a separate dispute earlier on the morning of the incident.
“That dispute continued when one of the men spotted the second male, who was the one later placed in handcuffs, walking on Oxon Hill Road approximately one-half hour later,” police said in a release.
“Officers requested emergency medical personnel to respond to the scene to check on both men. When the ambulance arrived, both men refused medical assistance or transport to a hospital.”
The detectives spoke to the independent witness, reviewed the cell phone footage recorded by an independent witness, and spoke to both men. They both refused to press charges against each other and refused to cooperate with detectives, police said. No weapons were recovered.
Following the 45-minute on-scene investigation, both men were released from the scene and advised that they had the option to press charges against one another through a district court commissioner, according to police.
Under Maryland law, individuals have up to one year and a day to seek charges through a commissioner, authorities said.
Stawinski said he had directed PGPD detectives to follow up with both parties “because we have their information, we know who they are, and we have addresses for them.” He said he found the video troubling and said the action by the PGPD officer to release the video into the hands of the public was irresponsible.
“In addition, based on the video that I find and I know you find troubling, I have asked our mental health capacity to reach out to the individuals involved in this, and to do a follow-up, and to see if there’s something that we can be doing in the way of assistance,” he said.
As the video of West sitting on a curb being questioned surfaced on the web, several celebrities, former NBA players, teammates and coaches took to social media to express concern and offer a helping hand.
The 36-year-old D.C. native played for the Boston Celtics, Seattle SuperSonics, Cleveland Cavaliers and Dallas Mavericks before leaving the league in 2012 for short stints overseas and in the D-League for three more years.
Jameer Nelson, West’s teammate at Saint Joseph’s University (Philadelphia) from 2001 to 2004, addressed mental illness and said he is in West’s corner. The former Orlando Magic guard and 2009 NBA All-Star also said he had been in communication with West over the past several months.
“I’m sick today (to) my stomach right now seeing the videos of Delonte. To answer everybody that’s reaching out to me about his situation…all we can do is pray for Him and his family and hope that he seeks the proper help,” says a Jan. 20 Twitter post by Nelson.
“I’m not sure what exactly is going on with Dwest, but he knows I’m in his corner and will help him get through this.”
Minutes after Nelson’s post, Phil Martelli – Nelson’s and West’s coach at St. Joseph’s – wrote “Over the past several hours I have talked with many who are willing to help – please read and embrace Jameer’s wisdom – we are reaching out to our basketball network to get the professional help Delonte needs. This is so very painful.”
Likewise, former NFL Pro Bowler Dez Bryant said he’d find a way to help West.
“I see a lot of dumb comments where folks are making fun of Delonte west…this is not a joking matter,” posted Bryant, the former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver. “I’m going to figure out how I can help him…he needs to be in rehab or something.”
Kendrick Perkins, a former NBA center who played alongside West for the Celtics, wrote, “I think it would be great for the @nba to go and find Delonte West and force him to get help!!! They have the resources and they have been doing a great job with Current Players for as Mental Health and now it’s time for them to show the same love to Former Players!”
The investigation is ongoing, according to Stawinski.