A D.C. police officer shot and killed a man who had a gun in his waistband and was found asleep in a car stopped at a traffic light in Northeast D.C. early Wednesday morning, D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee said.
According to police, someone called 911 after seeing the man asleep in a car in the middle of traffic around 3 a.m. by New York and Florida avenues in Northeast.
“Officers responded to that location for an individual who was unconscious behind the wheel of a vehicle at a traffic light,” Police Chief Robert Contee said.
Contee added that responding officers noticed the man had a gun in his waistband.
8.25.21 Chief Contee provides briefing on New York Ave NE Officer Involved Shooting https://t.co/fesaqG2ScJ
— DC Police Department (@DCPoliceDept) August 25, 2021
Officers spent about 20 minutes formulating a “tactical plan.” The man eventually woke up and, “at that point, that individual was engaged by officers,” Contee said.
“Shots were fired by a police officer, striking the individual,” Contee said. “He was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced deceased.”
Four or five officers responded to the scene but it appeared that only one of them fired.
Contee said police don’t know if the man fired his weapon, saying that’s still part of the investigation.
Investigators were reviewing body camera footage that was captured during the incident, though an initial review of the footage did not provide a full and clear look at what happened as the camera was partially obstructed by an officer’s bullet shield, according to Contee.
“There was some kind of direction given by one of the officers and then you hear the shots being fired,” Contee added.
— Nick Iannelli (@NickWTOP) August 25, 2021
After being shot, the man drove his car for a few blocks before crashing into a tree on New York Avenue near North Capitol Street.
Several streets, including a large stretch of New York Avenue, were closed as part of the investigation Wednesday morning, leading to a very difficult morning rush hour.
“Because the shooting occurred at one location and the vehicle came to rest at a different location, we had to close down a lot of streets in the area,” Contee said.
New York Avenue reopened shortly before 9 a.m. It was closed for about 5 1/2 hours.
D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson said in a statement that “police shootings are cause for the gravest concern.” While it was too early in the investigation “to either defend or condemn the police at this time,” Mendelson added that “lethal force should rarely be used,” and that “Chief Contee must move aggressively to prove whether this use of force was indeed justified.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Council member Janeese Lewis George said in a statement, “Sitting here trying to figure out how law enforcement can successfully deescalate a white domestic terrorist in a truck threatening to blow up the Capitol with a bomb but not a Black man who fell asleep in his car?”
The ACLU tweeted that, “Incessant police violence – part of an all too familiar pattern in D.C. – has taken a life once again,” calling for a full, transparent investigation.
This was the second time the D.C. police had shot someone in 24 hours. The other happened on Minnesota Avenue in Southeast Tuesday afternoon.
Council member Janeese Lewis George on Wednesday said via Twitter that she was “Sitting here trying to figure out how law enforcement can successfully deescalate a white domestic terrorist in a truck threatening to blow up the Capitol with a bomb but not a Black man who fell asleep in his car?”
She called for the release of all body camera footage in both shootings, adding that “every shooting is a tragedy. Our communities need transparency and accountability.”
Sitting here trying to figure out how law enforcement can successfully deescalate a white domestic terrorist in a truck threatening to blow up the Capitol with a bomb but not a Black man who fell asleep in his car? https://t.co/AQDICRLYfY
— Janeese Lewis George (@Janeese4DC) August 25, 2021
A map of the area is below.
WTOP’s Colleen Kelleher, Rick Massimo and Matt Small contributed to this report.