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Officer convicted of assault for holding gun to man’s head

A Maryland police officer was convicted of first-degree assault and misconduct in office after he held a gun to a man’s head to impress his friend, The Washington Post reports.

The incident, caught on video, occurred when the victim, William Cunningham, was being dropped off outside his home by his cousin. The men were talking inside his cousin’s vehicle when Officer Jenchesky Santiago pulled up behind them in his police cruiser.

Prince George’s County State Attorney Angela D. Alsobrooks said Santiago repeatedly asked the men what they were doing there, even after they had explained Cunningham lived inside the home. 

Santiago proceeded to tell the men they were parked illegally, which prosecutors said was not true, and Cunningham responded by saying he would get out of the car and go inside his home. 

Alsobrooks said Santiago then backed up and parked his cruiser. He ran up to Cunningham at the door of his home and pulled out his gun.

In the video, Cunningham says, “He put a gun to my head. He put a gun to my head,” before he froze in place with Santiago’s weapon in his face.

Witnesses, including Cunningham, told investigators that Santiago allegedly uttered a threat that was not caught on video.

After Cunningham filed a complaint with the police department, the department alerted the state attorney’s office.

At the time of the incident, although he is not authorized to bring visitors with him, Santiago had two friends from New Jersey riding along in his patrol car.

“We think, unfortunately, what happened is that he was showing off for his friends,” Alsobrooks said.

“I’m thankful justice was served,” Cunningham said.

Santiago, who had been a member of the police force for two years, was suspended without pay following his indictment. 

Police Chief Mark Magaw called Santiago’s behavior in the video “among the worst I’ve seen as chief of police” and that it “will be taken into account when I make a decision about his employment.”

Santiago will serve a mandatory minimum sentence of a least five years without parole for using a firearm in a violent crime. Alsobrooks said he could be sentenced to a term of up to 45 years.

Cunningham says he hopes other police officers will see the video and that “officers will be more mindful of the situations they get in and the way they conduct themselves.”

Contact Caitlin Lilly at clilly@reviewjournal.com. Find her on Twitter: @caitiesmith

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