Attorney Says Cop Who Held Gun to Civilian’s Head Behaved Like a ‘Gangster’
The latest black eye facing the police is a video showing a Prince George’s County police officer holding a gun to a Black man’s head. However, the officer in the video, Jenchesky Santiago, was convicted of first degree assault and misconduct Wednesday, according to The Washington Post. He faces a minimum of five years without parole for using a firearm in a violent crime. Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela D. Alsobrooks said he could eventually be sentenced to 45 years in jail.
Santiago’s actions were condemned by Prince George’s County Police Chief Mark Magaw who also recommended his firing.
The incident happened in May 2014. William Cunningham, the man in the video with a gun to his head, was being dropped off in front of his home by his cousin, when Santiago pulled up beside them. Santiago was riding with two friends in his police cruiser, which was a violation of department procedure.
“We think, unfortunately, what happened is that he was showing off for his friends,” said Alsobrooks.
Santiago challenged Cunningham and his cousin and claimed they were parked illegally, which according to Alsobrooks, was a lie. Cunningham left to go inside the house, but Santiago followed him to the door of his home and put a gun to his head. Cunningham said he was frozen with fear.
“I was shocked. At the instant he pointed the gun to my head, I was shocked,” he said.
According to Alsobrooks, Santiago also said, “We’re PG police, and we shoot people,” although that is not captured on the video.
Cunningham told The Washington Post he was traumatized by the incident.
“I thought I was going to die right there,” he said. “I just thought it was over.”
Gabriel Christian, an attorney for Cunningham, told The Washington Post that Santiago behaved like a “gangster” on the video.
“I saw someone who was totally out of control. Someone almost lost their life,” he said.
However, Cunningham decided not to take the incident lying down. He complained to the police department who referred the case to the state attorney’s office. Cunningham was also aided by the fact that the incident was captured on a cell phone camera by his cousin.
Magaw said Santiago’s behavior was “among the worst I’ve seen as Chief of Police.” At a news conference, he said he would investigate how Santiago made it through the police academy.
“We will become a better police department because you came forward,” Magaw told Cunningham.
Santiago, who was with the department for two years, has been suspended without pay since June 2014. Cunningham said he is still dealing with the after effects of the incident. He has trouble sleeping and focusing on his job installing fireplaces. He said he hopes the video will encourage other officers to be more “mindful” of the way they conduct themselves. He told The Washington Post members of the public should come forward if they encounter abusive police officers.
“If anytime you feel your rights are being violated, you should step up to the plate and say something,” he said.