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Monday, February 05, 2007

Johnson Backs away From Official

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From: Jacob Andoh
Date: Feb 5, 2007 6:42 AM
Subject: Johnson Backs away From Official
To: princegeorges_discussion@yahoogroups.com, pg-politics@googlegroups.com , pg-politics@yahoogroups.com

Source/credit: Washingtonpost.com, 2/5/07;
Johnson Backs Away From Official

Executive Says Man Who Shot 2 in Altercation Should Leave Security Post
By Cheryl W. Thompson and Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, February 5, 2007; B01

Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson distanced himself yesterday from Keith A. Washington, the county homeland security official and police officer who shot two men during an altercation at his Accokeek home. One of the two men has died, and the matter is under investigation.

Johnson said the relationship between him and Washington -- who had backed Johnson for office and once served as his driver -- is not one of personal friendship. He also said he did not believe Washington, a police corporal, should resume his homeland security post -- a job to which Johnson had appointed him.

"I don't think he should come back to Homeland Security, no matter what happens," Johnson told a reporter yesterday.

Johnson did not give reasons but said he believed Washington should return to the police department, which pays his salary.

It was not clear yesterday whether Washington could remain in the security post without the support of Johnson, who appointed him. Washington did not return calls last night.

Yesterday's telephone interview with a reporter was the most detailed account Johnson has provided of his position on the Jan. 24 shooting incident and his association with Washington.

Washington was appointed a deputy director of homeland security by Johnson in 2004. He is a longtime Johnson supporter who worked at one time as his driver.

He was one of few county police officers to support Johnson, who as state's attorney had focused on combating abuses by police.
Johnson and Washington belong to the same collegiate fraternity, and Washington has indicated that the two were close. Johnson said yesterday that the men's relationship has been misconstrued and would not affect the probe of the incident.

"Even if we were friends," Johnson said, "I wouldn't interfere" in the investigation of the shooting.

Washington, a 16-year police officer, has been on paid administrative leave since the night he shot unarmed deliverymen Brandon D. Clark, 22, and Robert White, 36.

The two were delivering a Marlo Furniture bedroom set to Washington when they were wounded during an altercation. Clark, who lived in Oxon Hill, died Friday at Prince George's Hospital Center. White, a District resident, has been in critical condition there.

Critics have described Washington as prone to losing his temper. Washington's supporters, including relatives and some county officials, have said little while the investigation has proceeded but have previously said he apparently acted in self-defense.

In the interview yesterday, Johnson depicted what he said was his relationship with Washington.

"I don't call him. He doesn't call me. My relationship with him is a professional one." Johnson, who is in his second term as county executive, said he has found that people often mischaracterize their relationships with him.

Johnson said that he and Washington are friendly when they see each other and that on the campaign trail they might have stopped to share a bite. But he said, "we are not friends."

The two do not socialize, and "I have never had dinner, lunch or anything else with him," Johnson said.

Washington was not his confidant, Johnson added.

"I am the county executive," Johnson said. "I am not going to be talking about business with my driver. We talk about sports."

Johnson said he has not contacted the families of those involved in the shooting.

"I'm just going to wait," he said.

But, he said, "my heart goes out to everybody."

Little information has been released about the circumstances of the shooting.

"I don't know what went on in that house," Johnson said yesterday.

"Whatever went on, it's a huge tragedy. I'm devastated."

When he named Washington to the homeland security job, Johnson said the Army veteran would ensure that the office "provides the protection and required services that the county needs."

Johnson did not elaborate yesterday on why he believed that Washington should not continue in the post, which Johnson said involved serving as a liaison with the police.

But he said Washington should return to the police department. "That's where he should go back to."

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