City Desk

Restaurant Owner Says Angry Internal Affairs Cop Hit Him With Car

The owner of Morgan's Seafood in Petworth says he had a harrowing experience Friday afternoon. Romeo Morgan says he was outside his Georgia Avenue restaurant when a police officer lost it during a traffic altercation. Morgan says he was helping direct a tractor trailer that wanted to pull out of traffic and into a spot near his restaurant, when a Mercedes Benz came roaring up. The impatient driver told Morgan to get out of the way. When he didn't, Morgan says, the driver hit him with his vehicle. He says he was "pushed back three to four feet."

The driver then got out and identified himself as a police officer, says Morgan. Morgan still refused to move. He says the cop got back in his car and "bumped" him about six more times. Morgan says he wasn't hurt, just jostled. That's when other cops showed up. Morgan says both he and the Benz-driving cop had put in calls to police. Morgan told the officers he'd been assaulted: "They asked what I wanted to be done. I said I want him locked up."

But that didn't happen. Morgan says he was given the last name of his alleged assailant—Epps—and told that he was from internal affairs. A man who said he was Epps' superior tried to broker a peace, says Morgan. The owner told the official he wouldn't press charges if Epps apologized. But Epps absolutely refused, and even though Morgan asked that he be charged, the official let him drive off. "If I did that as a citizen I'd be in jail," says Morgan. Morgan and two of his neighbors say they were asked to fill out 119s (witness statements). That's as far as things went. The proprietor says police left without providing him with a police report number.

One witness, who asked to remain anonymous, tells City Desk she saw the incident clearly—"He was pushing him with his car"  — and says that there are plenty of others who saw the same thing. "The weather was absolutely gorgeous," she says. "Everyone was out." The witness noted that she saw investigating cops laughing about the incident as they pulled off.

Witness Terry Wheless backs up Morgan's story, and says he was alarmed when he saw the car lurch forward: "I said, 'Romeo, you need to get out of the way, he's going to run you over!'"

Police Chief Cathy Lanier hasn't responded to requests for comment. Fraternal Order of Police boss Kris Baumann says if Morgan's account is correct, investigators broke the rules. "You have a citizen that wants to report a crime," Baumann says. "We have to take a report, bottom line. Interfering with an investigation and an arrest is a crime in the District. This is improper and creates a distrust for the police."

Morgan says he was just trying to help keep traffic moving on a narrow one-way street. He's particularly sensitive to traffic issues outside his soul food eatery, because it was closed down for ten years after being accidentally rammed into by cars on four separate occasions.

Morgan may also be sensitive about cops. In 2008, he was arrested by a transit cop who, Morgan says, hit him in the head with a metal baton. Court records show Morgan was charged with possession of an open container, disorderly conduct, and assault on a police officer in connection with the alleged clubbing. A judge threw out everything but the open container charge. Though Morgan was found guilty of that misdemeanor, his case is being appealed.

If Morgan's road rage story checks out, there's likely to be some controversy. MPD had been cleaning house using Internal Affairs Division stings. So far they've netted four allegedly dirty cops. If one of IAD's own assaulted a citizen, that would hurt their credibility.

UPDATE: MPD officials say the department is investigating the allegations made by Morgan, and the officer's full name is Leon Epps. MPD has yet to confirm his rank and position, though, or reveal exactly who's handling the inquiry. Morgan says he received a call from police just this afternoon, asking him to come in and provide a statement. (He thought that might be in part because the incident was made public.) He says he now has a meeting scheduled with an MPD official at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. "They should have given me something," Morgan growls—he still can't believe police left the scene without giving him a copy of a report.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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  • Drez

    The incidents mentioned in this story aren't the only times the owner of Morgans has clashed with the law. The man has some more history.

  • Native American JD

    Please follow up on this. I want to know when Epps is arrested and arraigned.

  • bonk

    history or not, a cop shouldn't use his vehicle as a weapon against a man that was not threatening him.
    this is all kinds of messed up.

  • Simon

    Officer Epps. Why does that name sound familiar. Does he have any history? More rsch pls City Papapaper...

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  • Rich

    A cop in a mercedes benz? What does a cop get paid in this city sounds like internal affairs needs a internal affairs this guy should file a federal lawsuit

  • Burlyman78

    Interesting story. Yes, please follow up.

  • Ward 4 parent

    This cop needs to get the same consequences as any other person. With the arrest now of several 4D cops for stealing, we need to see continued enforcement of our laws.

  • Miked

    Hope to hear more on this story, is assault ok when a cop does it ?

  • Fed Up

    Question:

    If I choose to "move" a Police Officer with my bumper, will I not be charged? I mean every intersection with a Dunkin Donuts or 7 eleven has cops in the middle of the street.... :-/

  • DJ Me

    @ Drez, a witness said the same thing. Because someone is charged last year with an open container (and the rest was thrown out), doesn't make them a criminal. Sadly, the police usually prevails, and they stick with their own. They are nothing but tax collectors, that continue to get away with this nonsense.
    I see cops throwing on their sirens just to cross the street or telling civilians to STFU. These people are older than some of them, and with higher degrees in many cases. There is no level of respect that the cops demonstrate.

    Cops are not like Mayberry anymore. They are nothing but ruffians that are veering more toward that of a 3rd world officer.

    Cops get away with way too much these days! Figuratively and literally, they get away with murder.

  • Ward 4 police watcher

    I heard that the officers and district officials on the scene wanted to arrest him, but Internal Affairs quickly responded and ordered them not to. Any other MPD officer would have been locked up in a second, but IAD gets to make their own rules. Epps thinks he's a super trooper and should not have been taking that type of police action for a traffic dispute when off-duty. Let's see what kind of bullshit he or IAD is going to write to try to get him out of it.

  • Rick Mangus

    MPD strikes again!

  • Ward 4 police watcher

    Another reason why he will get off is because his wife is a Magistrate Judge in D.C. Superior Court, Judge Diana Epps.

  • http://clintjcl.wordpress.com ClintJCL

    Road rage: Better hope you don't get it from a cop, because they will have the additional motivation of knowing they can get away with it.

  • GJ

    Would once again like to say to Rick shut up dick, but Epps is a 100% wrong. Once again a few bad apples make the majority look like shit

  • Common Sense

    "I heard that the officers and district officials on the scene wanted to arrest him, but Internal Affairs quickly responded and ordered them not to."

    Internal affairs can't order shit. The question the City Paper should ask is:

    1) What officials responded, both from IAD and 3D
    2) Whether or not the Field Commander (Cruiser 28) was notified and responded
    3) Were any Chiefs involved

    There shouldn't be one set of rules for patrol and another set for IAB. If I did this, I would have been locked up. Let's hope that he at least files a complaint with CCRB which would force MPD to act on this.

  • Marc

    Don't cops regularly shoot dozens of rounds into suspect vehicles for just such actions? Let's have some consistency here.

  • DOJ

    It appears we have quite a few judges and police officers commenting on this blog. Based on the comments, it sounds like this case has been closed and papered since friday.

    Stay tuned!!!!!!

  • Rick Mangus

    'GJ', my shutting-up will not happen in your pathetic life!

  • Why I stay out of DC

    Correction, Romeo: if a citizen did that to a cop, the citizen would have been shot & killed on the spot for attempted murder of a police officer. And the FOP would have been singing a different tune... something about "he felt his life was in danger" etc etc blah blah.

  • Red

    At least it will be investigated for several years before it's tossed in the trash.

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  • GJ

    shut up dick

  • Wow

    What's amazing to me is how u clowns all have a lot to say, I didn't c no blogs when the WHITE officers on MPD on a regular bases display racist remarks racist acts toward their black and Hispanic co workers. Where were you bloggers when the white police get away with damn near every and anything on the police department. Where was the bloggers when the now Capt in SOD call a person he supervise a nigger and told him he would fuck him in his ass, where were u, where were u when the LT. @ the first district, LT michk was assigned to to the 6 district spit in the black women face and called her a nigger, u want to investigate something investigate the racisism @ the first district investigated that. City paper check that out, check out how out of control the first district is when it comes to race, with the way they police and the way they treat their workers of color............?....

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