DC Transit Police Investigates Tasering of Unarmed Black Man

Metro Transit Police (MTPD) in Washington, DC launched an investigation after an officer used a stun gun on an unarmed Black man. The incident occurred on June 22 around 5:42 p.m. at the U Street Metro Station after authorities received a report of juveniles threatening riders with sticks. Video of the incident shows the man, identified as 28-year-old Tapiwa Musonza, asking officers questions before the incident escalated quickly, WUSA9 reported. An officer claimed in his report that Musonza was interfering in the police investigation and “exhibited behavior consistent with preparing to fight the officer,” according to WTOP.

Authorities said Musonza ignored warnings to move back, prompting an officer, identified as Jonathan E. Costanzo, to deploy his Taser. Video shows Cosanzo aggressively confronting Musonza and pushing him out of the way. Musonza extended his arms and took a step toward the officer before Costanzo again shoved him back. Costanzo deployed his stun gun twice and struggled to pin Musonza down. A third officer, identified as J. Ditrick, then used a stun gun on Musonza’s leg and deployed it in a technique called a “drive stun,” The Washington Post reported.

Che’mere Jones, who recorded the incident on her cellphone, repeatedly asked the officers to calm down and de-escalate the situation. “I was scared, I was ashamed, and I was frustrated,” Jones told WTOP. “There were seven officers around him and more coming down the escalator.”

Jones pushed back against the officer’s account of the situation, saying Musonza had one of his hands on the shoulder of a Black teen who was handcuffed while he held his other hand out in a halting gesture. She said that the officers placed Metro riders on the platform in danger. “Hold your brothers in blue accountable,” she said, referring to the police. “Not once did you offer any sense of security to anybody on that platform.” On June 23, MTPD announced the launch of an internal investigation into Musonza’s arrest.

“Based on concerns raised on social media regarding the officer’s handling of the interaction, as well as the appropriateness of the use of force, the Metro Transit Police Department has initiated an investigation into the matter,” the department said in a statement.“We take use-of-force matters seriously, and we are committed to fostering the public’s trust in us,” MTPD added on Twitter.

At least two members of the DC Council called on MTPD Chief Ron Pavlik to suspend the officer during the internal investigation. “The video leaves little doubt in my mind that what happened was unacceptable,” Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau (D-Ward 1), who represents the area where the arrest happened, said.At-large Councilmember David Grosso pushed for the officer’s removal. “After reviewing the footage of the @MetroTransitPD officer tasing a rider, it is clear that this officer’s actions were an inappropriate escalation and he should be removed from duty while the investigation proceeds,” Grosso tweeted.

Meanwhile, Councilmember Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) said: “From what I saw, it was an officer who escalated and created a dangerous situation. It’s unacceptable, and it’s not how we want policing in the District of Columbia.”Musonza was charged with resisting arrest, obstruction of justice, and assault on a police officer, The Washington Post reported. The US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia announced on June 24 it decided not to file charges against Musonza.Police did not find any of the victims involved with the juveniles’ alleged threats against passengers and none of the teens at the scene were charged.

Musonza’s mother, Precious Musonza, said her son came to the United States in 2010 from Zimbabwe and became a US citizen. Her son, who graduated from Howard University three years ago with a degree in finance, is not a fighter, she told The Washington Post. “Emotions were high, but my son doesn’t fight,” she said. “He likes helping people. That’s why he was talking to that little boy…. He was trying to do the right thing, and the police thought it was the wrong thing.”

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.