SILVER SPRING, Md. (WUSA) - The owner of a Silver Spring pawn shop has filed a formal complaint with Montgomery County Police over the alleged conduct of its officers.
He claims that two police officers came into Best Pawn on Wednesday to investigate an alleged theft there, but when they discovered two loaded guns behind the counter, things took a dramatic turn.
Only on 9, Andrea McCarren obtained surveillance video of the incident
She reports that what is clear in this case is: it is legal for a store owner or supervisory employee to possess a loaded gun in their business and to do so without a permit. But Montgomery County Police say that a worker under the age of 21 should not have had access.
The store's owner disputes that claim and, consistent with the formal complaint filed on Monday, his employees allege the officers used excessive force and acted in an unprofessional manner.
"I was helpless. I was handcuffed. Every time I began to speak, they pretty much told me to hush up," said Alexander, a store employee, who, like the store manager and assistant manager, wanted only his first name used.
The surveillance video shows the two police officers bringing the 20-year-old pawn shop employee to the ground and handcuffing him. Police say that was only after he refused to sit down. And they had questions.
"Why did we need to have a firearm? I told him that basically we have crazy customers. You never know when you might need them. And then he began to say, to imply that he could shoot me right now at this very moment. That's when I literally just sat there and was in awe," Alexander said.
Assistant manager Ingrid said, "He said, 'I'm a cop and I can do whatever I want. This is my country.' "
Moments later, the assistant manager, shown here in the yellow shirt, is also handcuffed while helping a customer on the other side of the counter.
"I asked one of the police officers, 'Why are you doing this to us?'" she said.
Based on the officers' alleged behavior, she says she feared they were imposters and that the pawn shop was about to be robbed.
"He said are you that stupid? You are a grown woman. How come you don't know what's going on here?" Ingrid said.
The surveillance video shows the officers barricade the front door with a blower, unplug the phones and the employees allege, they shouted at the customers to get out.
"When he started unplugging the phones, I started oh God, what's going on? Please let me be with my kids. And I was thinking, I'm sorry," Ingrid said.
The employees allege the officers did more than just handcuff them. Alexander says at one point, they took his cell phone.
"My mom called and literally they dropped the phone and looked at each other and smirked and laughed. At that point, it was personal," Alexander said.
The employees say they are traumatized. The store manager, who wasn't at the pawn shop, but who has viewed the video, says he too is distraught.
"These people cannot berate and insult us because you have a badge and a gun. We're people, we have feelings, we have souls. Treat us as such," said Edward, the store manager.
In response, a police spokesman alleges there was a lot of yelling and rude behavior toward the officers and that they acted cautiously because they didn't know how many more loaded weapons might be in the store.
Montgomery County Police could not provide us with a copy of the incident report because of an open investigation. Maryland State Police tell us that for someone under the age of 21, access to and possession of a loaded gun in a business are considered different in the eyes of the law, so it will have to be determined which the 20 year-old had.