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US snowball fight gun officer 'totally inappropriate'

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Witnesses describe the scene at the snowball fight - footage from Reason.TV

A senior police official in Washington DC has said an off-duty officer who drew a gun at a snowball fight behaved in a "totally inappropriate" way.

Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier said video footage left "no doubt" the officer drew his gun after his vehicle, a Hummer, was pelted with snowballs.

The footage showed an angry crowd gathering, chanting: "You don't bring a gun to a snowball fight".

Ms Lanier said the officer had been placed on desk duty.

She said he had not denied the allegations.

Is a statement, Ms Lanier said she had reviewed all the video footage of the incident taken by the public and it was "very obvious" the officer had drawn his police-issue gun "in response to the snowballs hitting his vehicle".

"I have no doubt about this, nor has the officer denied the accusations," she said.

"Let me be very clear in stating that I believe the actions of the officer were totally inappropriate!

"In no way, should he have handled the situation in this manner."

Assistant Police Chief Peter Newsham told reporters the detective, who has not been officially named, had more than 25 years of experience.

"He has a very good reputation," he told the Associated Press.

'Disturbing'

The incident took place on Saturday, as a large crowd of people were taking part in a mass snowball fight in the US capital during a blizzard.

Snow in Washington DC, US (19 December 2009)
Washington DC has been hit by the worst snow storms in years

Snowballs were thrown at the man's car and as he got out he exposed his gun briefly, always pointing towards the snow on the ground.

Panicked residents can be heard shouting, "He's got a gun," but others continue to throw snowballs his way.

At one point on the video - shown on YouTube - the man identifies himself as a "detective", but refuses to give his full name.

Then he proceeds to admit to pulling his gun.

"Yes I did because I got hit by snowballs," he tells angry residents who demand to know his badge number.

He challenges them to "throw another snowball".

The confrontation ended only when other policemen were despatched to the scene, and managed to calm everyone down.

Ms Lanier said the officer's actions "in no way, reflects the training and the standards" of the Washington DC Police Department.

She said it was disturbing that the "negative actions of one officer" had eclipsed the work of the police force during the blizzard.



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