An ex-Maryland police officer convicted of first-degree assault for aiming a gun at a man’s head was sentenced to five years in prison last week.
Jenchesky Santiago, the former Prince George’s County police officer, was caught on cellphone video pointing the gun at William Cunningham’s head “for no reason” prosecutors said. Santiago, who was also convicted of misconduct for allowing two friends from New Jersey ride in his police cruiser, pulled in front of Cunningham’s Bowie home, insisting he was parked illegally.
According to the Washington Post:
Cunningham was in a car with his cousin when Santiago repeatedly asked the men what they were doing and insisted that they were illegally parked, which prosecutors said was not true.
Santiago pressed the two men even after they explained that Cunningham lived in the home and said they planned to get out of the car and go inside. The video, captured on a cellphone and released by the police department, also showed Santiago shouting, “I dare you to [expletive] fight me, son” as he pointed a gun at Cunningham’s head.
The incident escalated as Cunningham headed to the front door of his home. Santiago backed up, parked his cruiser and ran after Cunningham, ordering him to return to the car. Santiago then pulled out a gun, pointing it at Cunningham’s head and mouth as the officer forced Cunningham back to the car. Santiago searched the two men before Cunningham’s wife came out of the house and confirmed that he lived there.
Though family members tearfully defended Santiago in court Friday, saying he would “never hurt anyone,” Prince George’s County Circuit Court Judge Dwight D. Jackson insisted the former police officer “degraded” Cunningham.
“Perhaps you were bored or perhaps you wanted to show off. You degraded that man.”
Jackson’s comments were in the same vein as those made by Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks, who said Santiago had no business serving in the police department. In a recorded jailhouse call made just five days after Santiago was convicted, the ex-cop can be heard saying Cunningham should be the one apologizing for the incident.
That call, prosecutors say, reveal Santiago’s lack of remorse.
Jenchesky Santiago is heard saying in recordings of a call with his mother, which prosecutors released after his sentencing hearing:
“If anything, they should be saying ‘Sorry’ to me, because all he wanted was a payday.”
Santiago was fired from the force on Dec. 18. Cunningham, who said he is pleased with the outcome, said he did not recognize the man friends and family described in court.
“I really don’t know how much time it will take for him to learn that his actions were wrong. It’s outlandish.”