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Fairmount Heights police officer faces kidnapping, misconduct charges

A Fairmount Heights police officer who is already under federal indictment is now facing new charges of kidnapping and misconduct in office related to a traffic stop in August 2019, the Office of the Maryland State Prosecutor announced Tuesday.

Public records show the officer, Phillip Dupree, has a troubled history in law enforcement — he was fired by another Maryland police department in 2015, shortly after a woman claimed that he’d arrested her in retaliation when she lodged a complaint against him.

Dupree is accused in the new case of illegally stopping a driver in Washington, D.C., arresting the man, and spraying him with pepper spray while he was handcuffed. An ambulance responded to the scene but the driver was not treated for the effects of the pepper spray, the Office of the State Prosecutor said in a news release.

Dupree then took the driver to the Fairmount Heights Police Department and held him there, despite the department not having a holding cell, for several hours before transporting him to the Department of Corrections, OSP said.

Dupree is also accused of falsely writing that the traffic stop occurred in Prince George’s County, that the ambulance had decontaminated the driver after Dupree used pepper spray, and that Dupree transported the driver to jail “without incident,” the office said.

“Any law enforcement officer who abuses their power, and then intentionally provides false information regarding their actions, should be held accountable,” State Prosecutor Charlton Howard said in the release.

Dupree is charged with two counts of kidnapping, eight counts of perjury and three counts of misconduct in office. A Prince George’s County grand jury returned the indictment last week, charging documents show.

Dupree is also facing a fraud charge in U.S. District Court in Maryland. Federal prosecutors allege that he coordinated with two members of the Prince George’s County Police Department to withdraw money from ATMs and then claim the funds had been stolen in order to receive reimbursements.

Dupree and the other officers — Mark R. Johnson Jr. and Candace D. Tyler — are accused of filing false police reports and submitting fraudulent claims to their banks. Dupree was charged along with five other officers from area departments who were accused in three separate frauds.

The indictment was filed under seal in late July and Dupree was arrested on Aug. 18, court records show. He entered a not-guilty plea to the fraud charge and was freed on his own recognizance. His first name in that case is spelled with only one “L.”

Efforts to reach Dupree on Tuesday were not successful. The lawyer listed in his federal case, David Benowitz, had no comment when reached by phone.

Dupree’s employment status was not immediately clear. The Fairmount Heights Police Department did not respond to phone and email messages.

Courts records in the federal case also indicate that Dupree was employed by D.C. Public Schools as of August. As a condition of Dupree’s release after his arrest, U.S. Magistrate Timothy J. Sullivan wrote that Dupree must notify “Fairmount Heights Police Department and D.C. Public Schools (employers) of his indictment.”

A spokesperson for D.C. Public Schools did not respond to an email requesting more information Tuesday.

Public records also show that Dupree was fired from the District Heights Police Department in 2015 after receiving “more citizen complaints than that of any other officer” in the department during his probationary period.

Dupree challenged his termination in court. Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals upheld the firing in a 2016 opinion.

The opinion outlines the allegations that contributed to Dupree’s firing, including a woman’s claim that he repeatedly slammed her son against a vehicle and threatened to arrest her when she intervened. Dupree left when the woman called 911, according to the opinion, but later returned to her door, forced his way into her apartment, brandished a handgun and arrested the woman.

An internal investigator at the District Heights Police Department concluded that Dupree’s actions were “a clear case of retaliation” against the woman.

The department also investigated Dupree after another officer reported he was carrying an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, which was an unauthorized weapon, according to the opinion.

The opinion also said that Dupree admitted to committing “unlawful conduct as a District Heights police officer” while he was pursuing a position as a police office with Maryland’s Department of General Services. The decision does not offer further details, but says the admission led the District Heights police chief to fire Dupree.

The driver Dupree pulled over in 2019, Torrence Sinclair, has filed a civil lawsuit against Dupree and the town of Fairmount Heights.

The complaint in the lawsuit claims that Dupree pulled over Sinclair and his sister, who was a passenger in the vehicle, at around 1 a.m. on Aug. 4, 2019. Dupree approached the vehicle holding handcuffs and pepper spray, according to the complaint, and shouted profanities at Sinclair over his speed.

Dupree ordered Sinclair out of the vehicle but then shut the door when Sinclair tried to comply, the complaint claims. When Sinclair requested that Dupree call a supervisor, Dupree became agitated and again ordered Sinclair out of the vehicle, according to the complaint.

Dupree handcuffed Sinclair, placed him in the front seat of a patrol car, and pepper sprayed him, the complaint alleges. He had Sinclair’s vehicle towed, took Sinclair to the Fairmount Heights police station and filed charges against him, though the charges were later dropped, according to the complaint.

The complaint accused Dupree of false arrest and imprisonment, assault and using excessive force. It also alleges that the town of Fairmount Heights was negligent in hiring Dupree.

Sinclair’s lawyer said that it is “incredible” that Dupree was allowed to continue working as a police officer given his background.

He’s a quintessential example of an office who should have never been at this agency,” said the lawyer, Jonathan Y. Newton.