Federal prosecutors will not pursue civil rights charges in the fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Deon Kay, who was killed by a D.C. police officer in September.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia said in a statement Thursday that “the U.S. Attorney’s Office cannot prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the MPD officer who shot Mr. Kay committed willful violations of the applicable federal criminal civil rights statute.”
Investigators from their Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section, and the D.C. police’s Internal Affairs Division, told Kay’s family of the decision on Thursday, the office said.
Kay was shot and killed Sept. 2 in the area of Orange Street, in Southeast, near Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling. He was in a parked car when someone reported to the police that Kay and someone else in the car were brandishing weapons, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
When the police arrived, Kay, whom the police said they knew, got out of the car and ran. An officer, whom the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice identified as Alexander Alvarez, followed Kay and shot him six seconds after getting out of his squad car.
An edited version of the body camera footage released by police in slow motion appears to show a gun in Kay’s right hand before he was shot, according to police.
Warning: The following video is the “community briefing” version that D.C. police edited and released. A fuller, redacted version of the bodycam footage can be found here. Some viewers may find the footage distressing or disturbing.
The police found the gun that they believed Kay was carrying about 98 feet away. In response to a reporter’s question in September, D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham said, “It does seem like a long way to throw a weapon.” He added that the officer reported seeing Kay throw the gun after being shot.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said they didn’t determine whether Kay threw the gun deliberately, or in response to being shot at.
The office said that they couldn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer didn’t act in self-defense. They added that any charges would have had a high bar to clear: Under the applicable law, 18 U.SC. 242, they said in the statement, “Prosecutors would have to prove not only that the officer used force that was constitutionally unreasonable, but that he did so ‘willfully,’ which the Supreme Court has interpreted to mean he acted with a bad purpose to disregard the law.”
They said, “As this requirement has been interpreted by the courts, evidence that an officer acted out of fear, mistake, panic, misperception, negligence or even poor judgment cannot establish the high level of intent required under Section 242.”
Kay’s killing led to a series of protests outside the police station and at D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s house, at which protesters urged her to fire Newsham.
Monica Hopkins, executive director of the ACLU’s District of Columbia branch, said in September, “The tragic shooting and death of 18-year-old Deon Kay is the logical conclusion of a policy that not only meets violence with violence, but actually escalates and incites it — especially in our Black communities.”
The Office of the D.C. Auditor is investigating the shooting as well. The office said it’s expecting a report on Kay’s case from its consultant in 2021.
WTOP’s Jack Moore contributed to this report.