WASHINGTON - It has been three weeks since a D.C. police officer shot and killed Terrence Sterling. Despite the release of the police body camera footage and the officer's name, there are still questions about what is going on behind the scenes of the investigation, especially since his death was ruled a homicide. Now, the Black Lives Matter movement is questioning the D.C. Police Union’s chairman and the impact his past will have on future proceedings.
Representatives for Black Lives Matter DC said a closed door meeting was held on Tuesday after the D.C. Police Union reached out to them. The meeting lasted about an hour and a half, but the group said they came out of the meeting with even more questions.
"I wanted him to know that this was bigger than just this case,” said April Goggans of Black Lives Matter DC. “That this case was indicative of all things that we've been saying – the way that it's being handled.”
Black Lives Matter DC continues to question transparency in the Sterling case. Following the closed door meeting, the group’s words towards D.C. Police Union chairman Matthew Mahl are personal.
Black Lives Matter DC said in a news release that "Sergeant Mahl is no stranger to criminal behavior on the job," citing a use of force incident back in 2015.
Documents, including the use of force report, obtained by FOX 5 confirmed, "Sergeant Mahl struck a handcuffed prisoner in the face after he was kicked in the groin by the prisoner." Two separate review boards found Mahl's use of force was unjustified and recommended a suspension that could have meant his termination from the force.
But sources confirmed to FOX 5 his suspension was quietly overturned by D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier just days after Mahl became police union chairman. Sources said it was an unprecedented move.
"To dismiss his case of police brutality the same week that he becomes president, I think that merged the solidarity between the [police] department and the [police] union,” said Goggans. “I think his idea of doing that is to build power."
According to sources, disciplinary action against Mahl includes a police-involved shooting in 2007 and two unpaid suspensions in 2013 and 2015.
Organizers for Black Lives Matter DC said the body camera video following Sterling's shooting is telling.
"I asked them why would one of the reps ask the officer to turn off his cam, and he said, ‘Oh, you know that's standard.'"
Sgt. Mahl responded to the scene following Sterling's death. We asked Goggans if she thought Mahl was hiding anything.
“Absolutely, I absolutely do,” she said.
Does Goggans think that Mahl was throwing other D.C. police officers under the bus by his actions?
“Oh yeah,” she said. “When you don't say what it is and then you fight the mayor for letting some information out, I don't understand what the fear is. And then to call to ask community people to come in and talk about the incident, I don’t know if they were fishing for extra information or what.”
A police officer like any citizen is protected under the Fifth Amendment and has the right to avoid incrimination during a criminal investigation and that is why union members say officers turn off body cameras once a scene is secure.
We have attempted to reach out to Sgt. Mahl for comment, but have yet to hear back as of Wednesday night.