Demand Justice for Kwamena Ocran — Protest a Gaithersburg Police Killing, Sunday, January 24
Please join the family of Kwamena Ocran — killed in Gaithersburg on January 8 by police officers — this coming Sunday, January 24, at 2pm at Gaithersburg City Hall. Community supporters will hear from Del. Gabriel Acevero and ACLU of Maryland Policy Director Caylin Young, student groups, and many others, and we will share poetry and music, with drumming group Farafina Kan and others. Our message: We demand justice.
On the evening of Friday, January 8th, four Gaithersburg Police Department (GPD) Street Crimes Unit officers, in plain clothes and without body-worn cameras, approached a 24-year-old resident, Kwamena Ocran, based on reports that he was armed with a gun. Then, according to police, they identified themselves, briefly chased the resident, he displayed a gun, and at least one officer shot him. Mr Ocran died at the scene.
Within hours, GPD provided public reports that the victim “displayed a gun” — details which could have had the effect of biasing the public towards the police’s unprovable version of events. Once SSJC asked for additional answers, Chief Sroka clammed up, claiming they needed to wait for an investigation. In addition, Gaithersburg City Council has erroneously labeled the investigation by Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD) “independent,” despite the fact that the two departments work together every day. When a life is taken, police have a heightened duty to respond to the public’s need for clarity and information.
At a city council hearing held two days after the killing, where the Mayor, City Manager, Councilmembers, and Police Chief were present, the civilian members of the government expressed no specific concerns nor asked any questions about the circumstances surrounding Mr. Ocran’s death.
We make the following demands of Montgomery County Police, the Gaithersburg Police Department, and the Gaithersburg Mayor, City Manager, and City Councilmembers, reminding the city government of its oversight duty and duty to ask questions and ensure accountability, rather than accepting the police version of events:
- Immediately clarify basic facts: We demand that Gaithersburg City Council immediately clarify whether Mr. Ocran was kicked after being shot and exactly what report led officers to stop Mr. Ocran initially. Chief Sroka released selected facts immediately after the incident, transparently intended to absolve his officers, and has no possible justification for refusing to release other basic facts.
- Release all body-worn camera footage from officers who arrived on the scene before, during, or after the shooting occurred, along with recordings of any dispatch calls and communications. There is no possible justification for withholding this information.
- Shut down the Street Crimes Unit and end all plain clothes policing, just like New York City did in 2020 after recognizing that plain clothes policing is linked to abuse of authority. If New York City doesn’t need it, Gaithersburg can also do without.
- Independently investigate the Street Crimes Unit and the department for patterns of discriminatory and abusive policing, including the impact of the “focused enforcement area” initiative.
- Require body cameras for all sworn officers interacting with the public.
- Defund the SRO at Gaithersburg High School. The Montgomery County Council has released a legislative oversight report clarifying the adverse impact of SROs on racial equity. SROs are linked nationally to reinforcing the school to prison pipeline, and they crowd out funding for better solutions, like restorative justice, therapeutic mental health services, and enrichment.