SILVER SPRING, Md. -- A Maryland man who was shot and killed by a police officer was asleep in his bedroom when police opened fire from outside his house, an attorney for the 21-year-old man’s family said Friday. The man's girlfriend was also wounded.
The Montgomery County Police Department said in a news release Friday that Duncan Socrates Lemp “confronted” police and was shot by one of the officers early Thursday. Rene Sandler, an attorney for Lemp’s relatives, said an eyewitness gave a “completely contrary” account of the shooting. She said police could have “absolutely no justification” for shooting Lemp based on what she has heard about the circumstances.
“The facts as I understand them from eyewitnesses are incredibly concerning,” she told The Associated Press.
The warrant that police obtained to search the Potomac home Lemp shared with his parents and 19-year-old brother doesn’t mention any “imminent threat” to law enforcement or the public, Lemp’s relatives said in a statement released Friday by their lawyers. Nobody in the house that morning had a criminal record, the statement adds.
“Any attempt by the police to shift responsibility onto Duncan or his family, who were sleeping when the police fired shots into their home, is not supported by the facts,” the statement says.
A police department spokesman didn’t immediately respond to the statements by the family or their lawyer.
The department's news release on Friday says tactical unit members were serving a “high-risk” search warrant around 4:30 a.m. when one of the unit's officers fatally shot Lemp. Police detectives recovered three rifles and two handguns from the home. Lemp was prohibited from possessing firearms, police said.
“Detectives were following up on a complaint from the public that Lemp, though prohibited, was in possession of firearms,” the release says without elaborating.
Sandler said the family believes police fired gunshots, not a flashbang or other projectile, from outside the home, including through Lemp’s bedroom window, while he and his girlfriend were sleeping. Nobody in the home heard any warnings or commands before police opened fire, she said.
“There is no warrant or other justification that would ever allow for that unless there is an imminent threat, which there was not,” Sandler said.
The police department's news release says the “facts and circumstances of the encounter” are still under investigation. Prosecutors from neighboring Howard County will review the evidence at the conclusion of the investigation.
“An established agreement between the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office and the Howard County State’s Attorney’s Office stipulates that when an officer-involved shooting involving injury or death occurs in one county, the other county’s State’s Attorney’s Office will review the event,” police said.
Lemp was Caucasian, according to Sandler. She did not know the race of the unidentified officer involved in the shooting because she said the officers were wearing masks. The officer was placed on administrative leave, a standard procedure after police shootings.
Sandler said Lemp’s grief-stricken family is traumatized. Their statement says they intend to “hold each and every person responsible for his death.”
“We believe that the body camera footage and other forensic evidence from this event will support what Duncan’s family already knows, that he was murdered,” the statement says.
Lemp worked as a software developer and was trying to raise money for a startup company, according to friends and co-workers.
“He was a talented, smart guy. Super nice. Didn’t deserve to get shot,” said Samuel Reid, whose Canadian software company employed Lemp as an independent contractor.
Tsolmondorj Natsagdorj, 24, of Fairfax, Virginia, said he met Lemp in 2016 and bonded with him over their shared interest in cryptocurrency. They also talked about politics. He described Lemp as a libertarian who frequented the 4chan and Reddit message boards, sites popular with internet trolls.
“Duncan was a young guy with a bright future as an entrepreneur,” Natsagdorj said. “He was working on things to change the world.”
On social media accounts that friends said belonged to him, Lemp’s username was “YungQuant.” On an internet forum called “My Militia,” someone who identified himself as Duncan Lemp, of Potomac, and posted under the username “yungquant” said he was “an active III%'r and looking for local members & recruits.” That’s an apparent reference to the Three Percenters, a wing of the militia movement. The group’s logo, the Roman numeral “III,” has become popular with anti-government extremists, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
On his Instagram account, Lemp recently posted a photograph that depicts two people holding up rifles and included the term “boogaloo,” slang used by militia members and other extremists to describe a future civil war in the U.S.
Friends said they never heard Lemp espouse any anti-government rhetoric. Sandler said Lemp was not a part of any anti-government or militia-type group.
“He was pro-America and supported wholeheartedly all the protections of the Constitution,” she said.