WASHINGTON -- The D.C. police officer accused of threatening to shoot first lady Michelle Obama claimed Wednesday in a disciplinary hearing that he was joking.
The Washington Post reports Christopher Picciano, a 17-year veteran of the Metropolitan Police Department, "maintains that he made a sarcastic quip while inadvertently displaying an image of a gun on his smartphone," according to his attorney.
But a colleague said she perceived Officer Christopher Picciano’s words at a Washington restaurant as a threat. She said Picciano deliberately showed her the picture and said, “This is the gun I plan to do it with.” The witness said she waited several hours before reporting it to a superior because she feared retribution from fellow officers.
The hearing, called a trial board, is presided over by two police captains and an inspector. Picciano, whose job included escorting motorcades for the president, vice president and other dignitaries but who is now on desk duty, is expected to testify Thursday. The proceedings are providing the first detailed accounts of a case that embarrassed D.C. police and made international news.
The alleged threat occurred on July 11, 2012, at Jack’s Fresh restaurant at 20th and L streets NW, when Picciano reportedly told colleague Officer Leslie Clark and her partner, "Yeah, because I want to kill her (Michelle Obama)." Later he allegedly answered, "I guess I would," when the conversation turned to who would want to kill the first lady.
After the incident, Picciano was taken off motorcycle escort and moved to paid desk duty. He will not be prosecuted for the alleged threat, but could be disciplined for exhibiting conduct unbecoming a police officer.
Speaking in July, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said, "There’s absolutely no place for jokes of a nature that could be perceived as threatening to the president, the first lady or anybody else. That’s not funny, and police officers get that."
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray echoed her sentiments: "There's no room for jokes or frivolity when you're dealing with the first family."