Chelsea Manning is complaining that police searched her Montgomery County apartment on a wellness check after she sent two tweets appearing to threaten suicide because the police conducted the "wellness check" while armed.
Montgomery County says they received several calls from individuals concerned that Manning was suicidal after Manning posted a photo showing what appeared to be a pair of pedicured feet dangling several stories about the street below. At least one caller either confirmed or provided an address, The Intercept says, and County officials dispatched officers for a "wellness check."
Private security camera footage, provided by Manning to The Intercept, shows three officers entering the apartment with guns drawn after knocking, announcing their presence, and opening the locked door with a key they reportedly obtained from building management. The officers call Manning's name several times while clearing rooms.
Although it's very clear from the footage that the officers had no idea what to expect when they entered Manning's apartment — and that the crew had no idea whether Manning would be armed and dangerous, even if she were only dangerous to herself — Manning called the video evidence that Americans live in a "police state."
“This is what a police state looks like,” Manning told The Intercept. “Guns drawn during a ‘wellness’ check.”
Manning was apparently out of the country when she sent the now-infamous "suicide tweet." A friend of Manning who commented to The Intercept claimed, “If Chelsea had been home when these cops arrived with guns drawn, she would be dead.”
Montgomery County police attempted to explain police procedure to The Intercept, to no avail.
“They responded to the address to check her welfare,” Capt. Paul Starks of the Montgomery County Police told the outlet. “Once inside the residence they realized that the residence did not match the photo that was posted on Twitter. … We tried to determine where she may be by attempting to use her phone but the phone was powered off and they weren’t able to leave a message.”
Although drawing a weapon isn't necessarily standard operating procedure, Starks told The Intercept, that decision is left to the responding officers, and most choose to have their weapon at the ready when entering an unfamiliar and potentially volatile situation.
“They don’t know what kind of circumstances they are entering when they enter a home,” Starks said. “The fact that a weapon is drawn doesn’t mean that they are going to shoot it.”
“Do you know what was going on in that apartment that night? No. Not until you open the door and go in. … We respond to hundreds of thousands of calls each year. Many of them are not what is phoned in," he continued.
Another expert, Metro Transit Police SWAT Commander William Malone, explained further that people frequently use police to commit suicide, and in this case, the person they were checking on had military training: “The police should be commended for their actions in this case, not criticized."