A retired D.C. lieutenant who fatally shot a trainee during an instructional exercise for library police officers last summer has been sentenced to three years behind bars.
In June, 59-year-old Jesse Porter pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter while armed and unlawful discharge of a firearm in the death of 25-year-old Maurica Manyan at the Anacostia library in August 2022.
The sentence handed down by Judge Anthony Epstein on Friday was the minimum under sentencing guidelines, sparking an angry, emotional outburst from members of Manyan’s family, many of whom gave wrenching victim-impact statements during Friday’s hearing.
Prosecutors had asked for seven years.
Earlier this year, Porter, a 33-year veteran of the D.C. police department, was indicted by a grand jury on a more serious charge of second-degree murder in Manyan’s death, but he was later offered a plea deal on the lesser offense — a move that was sharply criticized by the Manyan family.
What happened in the library
The Aug. 4, 2022, shooting occurred when a group of trainees had gathered to take pictures and were “joking around” following a day of exercises at the Anacostia Library on Good Hope Road in Southeast D.C.
The group was posing for a picture when Manyan interrupted them to fix her hair and face mask, according to court documents. That’s when Porter pulled out his service weapon and shot her in the chest. Porter, who had conducted the training as a private contractor, later told police he thought it was his training gun.
“I thought I had my training gun,” Porter told responding officers, according to court documents. “Why did I do this? Is she OK?”
Earlier in the day, according to other trainees, Porter appeared to be “playing around” and had pulled out his orange training gun and mockingly fired at Manyan.
A family’s anguish
During the sentencing hearing, family members and friends expressed their anguish in heartbreaking detail.
Manyan was proud to be a special library police officer and had recently bought a new home before her killing, they told the judge. She was the mother of a young son, Demauri, who is now about to start kindergarten without her.
Manyan’s great-grandmother said the young woman’s now 5-year-old son asks after his mother constantly, pleading “Why did she have to die?”
Referring to the plea deal and the fact that Porter has not been held at the D.C. Jail while his case has played out in court, Manyan’s brother, Radcliffe, said it feels like he’s getting a slap on the wrist.
“Anybody else would have 10, 15, 20 years in jail, no doubt. … And they would have been locked up from a year ago,” he said. “Because it’s on video. You’re guilty. There is no doubt.”
Leo Richards, Manyan’s cousin, recalled recently visiting the house she had bought before she was killed. The furniture and appliances still appear new — they’re practically unused. “It’s the life that you didn’t allow her to live,” he said, adding “You destroyed an entire family.”
Defense attorney: ‘He is not a murderer’
Defense attorney Brian McDaniel said Porter had an exemplary three-decade career with D.C. police and had gone his entire life without running afoul of the criminal justice system.
“He is not a murderer,” McDaniel said. “He has accepted responsibility for the involuntary manslaughter of Ms. Manyan.”
He said he understands family members are trying to make sense of their loss, but “What we are left with … is a tragic, tragic accident. That’s what it was.”
Porter gave a brief statement in court, saying he prayed for the right words, but that the only thing he could say was sorry. “I’ll never be able to the find the words that I’ve prayed for,” he said.
When the time came for sentencing, the judge acknowledge the Manyan family’s emotion.
“Your anger is understandable, but as a judge, I can’t sentence out of anger,” Epstein said.
“I think a three-year sentence imposes substantial punishment proportionate to the crime and … I think it is the punishment appropriate for what the evidence shows was a tragic mistake,” the judge said.
Exclamations of “Oh, my God,” and “That’s ridiculous, judge,” came from Manyan’s loved ones as they exited the courtroom.
Porter will begin serving his sentence immediately.
Family calls for investigation
In the year since Manyan’s killing, her family fought to see surveillance camera footage taken inside the library that captured the shooting. In a statement this week, attorneys for the family, Chelsea Lewis and Francis Williams, said they were finally granted access to that video recording.
The family has said they believe the District shares blame for Manyan’s killing, saying that Porter’s company, through which he conducted training exercises, did not have insurance at the time of the shooting.
In the statement this week, the family’s lawyers said D.C. “bears a heavy responsibility for allowing such a tragedy to occur in a public library against one of their own public servants.”
The family said they are calling for an investigation into “multiple suspected policy violations” they observed in the surveillance video.
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