Handling of barricade situation raising questions in DC police whistleblower trial

Questions are being raised about the way D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier is defending herself in a whistleblower lawsuit.

She is using a controversial barricade situation in which a man was killed as a reason for demoting Capt. Hilton Burton.

It was a barricade that was found to be justified by prosecutors and a federal court judge.

When Chief Lanier and her attorneys began their defense here on Wednesday, they came out swinging. They described Burton as a man with judgment, leadership and integrity issues.

But they also called a 2011 barricade Burton handled as "botched" where a man died in the Mount Pleasant area. It is the exact same barricade city attorneys argued in federal court was properly handled.

Burton filed his whistleblower lawsuit after he was demoted from commander to captain following the controversial 2011 lights and siren escort of actor Charlie Sheen.

Burton says Chief Lanier lied to the public about the department's history of celebrity escorts and retaliated against him for questioning her veracity at a D.C. city council hearing.

But Lanier says there was no retaliation, and instead, she demoted Burton over his performance.

There are a host of issues that have now been paraded in front of the eight-person jury.

The centerpiece being that barricade on Irving Street in June of 2011.

In testimony Wednesday, Assistant Chief Lamar Greene -- Burton's immediate supervisor -- said the then-commander was too aggressive and the use of force was unnecessary.

These are allegations Burton said he knew nothing about until after his testimony before the city council.

In court on Thursday, two officials, Greene and Commander Ralph Ennis, were asked by Burton's attorney Marc Wilhite if they thought the way the barricade was executed was reasonable.

Both said no, it was unreasonable, with Commander Ennis telling the jury the chief was "extremely, extremely mad" with the outcome.

However, in a civil suit filed in federal court, the city's attorney, working out of the exact same office as Chief Lanier's attorneys, said the barricade was handled in a reasonable way and the judge in the case dismissed it.

Burton is suing in hopes of getting his rank back.

The defense will likely come to a close when Chief Lanier takes the stand Friday morning.

So far, three top officials with the D.C. Police Department have taken the stand and said they had serious issues with the way that barricade was handled.

We know in the days after the barricade, the chief went on a local television program and defended the way it was handled.

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