DC Police Reform Commission questions Chief Newsham on Kay shooting in emergency meeting

This image from video released by the Metropolitan Police Department, shows body cam video during a foot pursuit with Deon Kay, center, in Washington, on Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 2, 2020. Police in the nation’s capital released body camera footage from the officer who fatally shot the Black 18-year-old in the chest. (Metropolitan Police Department via AP)
The D.C. Police Reform Commission grilled Chief Peter Newsham with questions surrounding the shooting of Deon Kay during an emergency virtual meeting on Friday.

Newsham informed the committee that the use-of-force review board will be looking into the incident in which 18-year-old Kay was shot and killed by a police officer Wednesday on Orange Street Southeast, just east of Joint Base Anacostia.

The commission questioned Newsham on several aspects of the shooting investigation including use of force, whether Kay was part of a gang and the release of the body camera footage of the incident.

Police said they responded to reports of a man with a gun on Wednesday, and when they arrived, officers found people in and around a vehicle.

Upon seeing police, two people fled on foot and police said one of them, identified as Kay, pulled out a gun while being pursued on foot, and an officer fired his gun and wounded him.

Kay was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Police released the body camera footage during a news conference on Thursday afternoon with D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Newsham.

Newsham says that the use-of-force review board has been expanded by recent legislation to include members of the community. He said that the department has 180 days to complete the internal administrative investigation of Kay’s killing before the use-of-force review board looks at the results.

Commission Member Patrice Sulton grilled Newsham, starting a back-and-forth on the release the additional body camera footage.

“Why have you not released the body camera footage from the other officers who are on the scene that shows the full picture of what transpired,” Sulton said. “Why has that not been made public?”

“The legislation requires that they release the body camera footage of the officer involved,” Newsham said.

Sulton pushed further: “So the answer is because you don’t have to and you don’t want to?”

“I don’t have the authority to release that,” Newsham said.

“That’s not true,” Sulton said back.

Bowser would have to approve the release of the additional camera footage, Newsham said.

When asked if Kay was a member of a gang, Newsham said that the group he was a part of had the word “gang” in it but that he would not comment further.

During a discussion of gangs versus crews, Commission Member Tina Frundt said that the word “gang” and calling a group by that word does not mean that they are necessarily an actual gang or meet the definition of one.

Another commission member, The Rev. Delonte Gholston, said that this incident reminded him of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy who was shot by police in November 2014 while playing outside of a recreation center with a pellet gun.

“The two things officers are taught is to buy yourself time and create as much space in a situation,” Gholston said. “I don’t see that there was time or space given. If the officers have given themselves more time and more space we wouldn’t be having this conversation now.”

Before its next meeting on Sept. 14, the commission is asking for the body camera footage from other officers on the scene of the shooting and the disciplinary records of Alexander Alvarez, the officer who shot Kay.

The 20-member group is also calling for an independent investigation of the shooting, separate from one that the U.S. Attorney’s Office will conduct.

WTOP’s Michelle Basch contributed to this story. 

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Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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