Maryland police officer suspended after arrest on Capitol riot charges

Storming the Capitol.  Photo from The Associated Press

SILVER SPRING, Md. (AP) — A Maryland police officer who fatally shot a stabbing suspect earlier this year was arrested Thursday on charges that he assaulted police during a mob’s Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

The Montgomery County Police Department said in a news release that it has suspended Officer Justin Lee without pay and is “taking steps to terminate his employment” after his indictment on felony charges.

The police department said it hired Lee roughly one year after the Jan. 6 riot and didn’t know about his alleged involvement in the attack until July 2023, when it learned he was under FBI investigation.

“The actions of one individual do not define the entire department,” the department said.

Lee, 25, of Rockville, Maryland, had been on administrative leave since he shot and killed a man suspected of stabbing four people on July 22, 2023, according to the police department.

Officers had responded to calls for a stabbing at a thrift store in Silver Spring, Maryland, before they confronted the suspect, who was holding a foot-long butcher’s knife. The suspect ignored officers’ commands to drop the knife and lunged at Lee before the officer shot him, police said in a news release.

One of the four stabbing victims was critically injured, police said. After the shooting, The Police Chief   told reporters that all of the victims were expected to survive the attacks, which he described as “unprovoked.”

Lee was arrested in Washington, D.C., on the Jan. 6 charges and was expected to make his initial court appearance on Thursday, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office for the District of Columbia.

Lee hasn’t been performing a police officer’s duties since the July shooting, the department said. His unpaid suspension stems from his arrest on Jan. 6 charges.

A federal grand jury indicted Lee on seven counts, including felony charges of civil disorder and assaulting, resisting or impeding police. The indictment charges Lee with assaulting a Metropolitan Police Officer but doesn’t provide a detailed account of the attack.

An attorney for Lee, Terrell Roberts III, didn’t immediately respond to an email and telephone call seeking comment.

The police department said Lee applied to be a Montgomery County police officer in July 2021, six months after the riot. The police department said it thoroughly investigates the background of job applicants but is reviewing that process “to determine whether adjustments need to be made.”

“Lee’s involvement in the January 6 insurrection was not discovered during this process, as he was not identified by the Justice Department in connection with the event,” the department said.

More than 100 police officers were injured during clashes with rioters supporting then-President Donald Trump. Over 1,100 people, including several current or former law enforcement officers, have been charged with Capitol riot-related federal crimes.

By The Associated Press