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Prince George's County Police Officer Jenchesky Santiago was convicted of first-degree assault and three other charges for pointing and holding his gun in a black man's face. The incident occurred in Bowie, Maryland in May 2014, although officials only now released video of the incident in conjunction with Santiago's criminal conviction.
Warning: the video below is graphic and contains profane language.
"I Thought I Was Going to Die Right There."
As you can see in the video, Santiago holds the gun to William Cunningham's head, while ordering him to get back in a car. At one point, Santiago even goads Cunningham by yelling, "I dare you to f***ing fight me, son."
The encounter allegedly began when Cunningham's cousin dropped him off at his house. Santiago pulled up in his cruiser and told the men they were parked illegally, then pulled his gun on Cunningham when he tried to walk into his house.
Santiago was convicted on four counts: first-degree assault, second-degree assault, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, and malfeasance in office. The use of a firearm charge carries a five-year mandatory minimum sentence, and prosecutors said Santiago could be sentenced to a term of up to 45 years. Although state laws on assault can vary, they are generally defined as an attempt to injure to someone else, and in some circumstances can include threats or threatening behavior.
"I'm Thankful Justice Was Served."
Even more egregious than what is shown on the video is Santiago's alleged motivation. Prince George's County State's Attorney Angela D. Alsobrooks noted that Santiago had two friends from New Jersey riding with him in his police car, saying, "We think, unfortunately, what happened is that he was showing off for his friends." Cunningham and other witnesses told investigators that Santiago allegedly threatened him before the video began, telling him, "We're PG police, and we shoot people."
Despite his conviction, Santiago remains on the force, although the Prince George's County police chief condemned the officer's actions and said he recommended that the department fire him.