BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh on Monday applied for a court order to block the Harford County Sheriff’s Office from interfering with an independent investigation into the shooting death of a 53-year-old man killed by deputies over the weekend.

The Harford County Sheriff’s Office refused to allow state police investigators to collect evidence from the scene of Saturday’s shooting and did not share evidence collected by its own investigators within 48 hours, Frosh’s office said Monday. The attorney general also alleged that HCSO refused to hand over body camera video.

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“(State investigators) have complete, unfettered access to it. The evidence is still held by the Harford Co. Sheriff’s Office,” Harford Co. Sheriff Jeff Gahler said Monday. “Their investigators, our investigators, could sit there (in the mobile command post) and watch the video together.”

Gahler said state investigators could release the body-worn camera video too early, which he says could compromise the investigation.

“The Attorney General has gone way beyond the bounds of the law in issuing protocols that aren’t supported by the law,” Gahler said. “If they’re in possession of (Body Worn Camera video) and they decide to release it outside the wishes of the State’s Attorney, that is certainly something, I believe, contrary to law, but contrary to being able to conduct a complete and unbiased investigation.”

Deputies were responding to a report of a “suicidal man” armed with a gun in Bel Air about 2:45 p.m. Saturday when two deputies fired upon John Raymond Fauver, a 53-year-old Whiteford man whom Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler characterized as “suicidal.” He was taken to a hospital, where he died of his injuries.

In a prepared statement, Frosh accused the Sheriff’s Office of illegally interfering with its independent investigation.

“This interference with an independent investigation is in violation of the law. The people of Maryland deserve better, and we will fight to see that they get it,” Frosh’s statement said in part.

DOCUMENT: View a PDF copy of the attorney general’s complaint

Gahler’s office said in a statement Monday that “it was shameful Mr. Frosh would not work to resolve these issues in the many months, but for purely political purposes has chosen to use this tragedy as political fodder.”

The statement notes that Gahler made an effort to discuss concerns about the legality of the protocols related to the new investigation unit with Frosh’s office more than eight months ago.

“In short, the concern of Sheriff Gahler was that the protocols were not based in law, but rather the improper assumption of legislative authority on the part of the Attorney General,” the statement reads.

Prior to the implementation of the new law, Gahler shared with the attorney general’s office the policy maintained by his office on police-involved incidents that led to the death of a civilian.

That policy is in compliance with state law, according to the statement.

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“At no time since receiving Sheriff Gahler’s concerns and/or a copy of the HCSO Policy has Mr. Frosh indicated any element of the policy was in conflict with Maryland Law, only his self-ordained protocols that, again, are not supported in Maryland law,” the statement reads.

Gahler has not specified what led the deputies to fire their weapons at Fauver. The deputies—Bradford Sives and Christopher Maddox—were placed on administrative leave, which is routine for all police shootings.

Sives’ and Maddox’s body-worn cameras were activated at the time of the shooting, as were the cameras worn by other law enforcement officers who were present, the Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post.

Despite the Sheriff’s Office saying it shared evidence with the Attorney General’s Independent Investigations Division, Frosh’s office said Monday that evidence had not been turned over to the IID “in the two days since the fatality occurred.”

Additionally, the attorney general said the HCSO would not provide copies of footage from the incident—from body-worn cameras, dashboard cameras and civilian sources—and instead offered to let the IID review it under supervision, which Frosh said defeats the purpose of an independent investigation.

The IID was formed in 2021 as an independent investigative unit in response to legislation passed by the Maryland General Assembly. The unit is tasked with investigating all deaths at the hands of Maryland law enforcement officers.

“Despite the mandatory language of the relevant statutes, Sheriff Gahler has previously and unequivocally expressed an intent not to allow the Independent Investigations Division to take custody of evidence or otherwise conduct an unimpeded investigation,” Frosh’s complaint states.

The complaint also cites a Dec. 28, 2021, letter from Gahler’s attorney stating that the sheriff “will not follow the protocols issued by the” Independent Investigations Division.

The attorney general is seeking a declaratory judgment requiring the HCSO to cooperate with the independent investigation. It also calls for a restraining order blocking the HCSO from interfering with that investigation.

Sen. Charles Sydnor, D-Baltimore Co., co-wrote the 2021 legislation requiring the Office of the Attorney General to investigate all fatal law enforcement use of force cases.

“That doesn’t make much sense to me,” Sen. Sydnor said. “It doesn’t make much sense to have them (state investigators) sit on the sidelines when they can be there at the point the activity occurred.”

Sen. Sydnor implied the General Assembly may need to take up additional legislation to clear up any debate on authority at crime scenes.

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“If it’s causing this much debate in multiple jurisdictions, it is likely going to have to be something that’s going to have to be addressed,” Sen. Sydnor said.

Paul Gessler