Residents and activists such as Jay Brown continue to question the circumstances surrounding the officer- involved fatal shooting of a man who was experiencing a mental health episode on Jan. 24 on the 1300 block of North Capitol Street NW. (Courtesy photo)
Residents and activists such as Jay Brown continue to question the circumstances surrounding the officer- involved fatal shooting of a man who was experiencing a mental health episode on Jan. 24 on the 1300 block of North Capitol Street NW. (Courtesy photo)

As the U.S. Attorney鈥檚 Office for the District of Columbia (USAO) determines whether to charge the officer involved in a fatal shooting that took place along North Capitol Street in Northwest last month, Jay Brown said he has more questions than answers about the situation. 

Brown, executive director of Northeast-based grassroots organization Community Shoulders, said that, shortly after the Jan. 24 shooting, a Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) sergeant denied him access to the media briefing conducted near the 1300 block of North Capitol Street NW.   

鈥淲hen I asked the officer the policy, anything I could look up, the officer threatened to lock me up,鈥 Brown told The Informer. 鈥淭hat was a violation of my constitutional rights. I needed the same access as the media. You can鈥檛 block access to the public. It鈥檚 blatant disrespect that keeps us away from the transparency of a situation.鈥 

According to initial reports, the MPD officer, trained in crisis intervention and auxiliary crisis negotiation, arrived with D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department at the 2500 block of Benning Road in Northeast on the morning of Jan. 24. 

There, they encountered the man, who was experiencing a mental health episode. 

MPD officials said that, upon voluntarily committing himself, the man entered an ambulance that was going to transport him to a local hospital. The officer followed behind the ambulance in an MPD vehicle. 

On the way to the hospital, the man assaulted a firefighter aboard the ambulance. Once the firefighter escaped, the man left the ambulance and fled to the 1300 block of North Capitol Street in Northwest. Body-worn camera footage released days later shows the officer exiting his vehicle and approaching the man as the man was pushing his fellow officer several times. 

During the seven-minute exchange, the officer pepper sprayed the man while verbally commanding him to stand down. The man then ran away from officers. He crawled underneath a truck that was stuck in traffic and reappeared with what officers later determined to be a metal tire gauge. 

Despite officers鈥 requests, the man declined to drop the gauge. He grabbed at the officer and swung the gauge. 

The officer stepped back, asking him once more to stop. When the man didn鈥檛 acquiesce, the officer shot at the man five times and one more time as the man fell to the floor and dropped the gauge. 

MPD retrieved the gauge and the man was pronounced dead at the scene. 

MPD officials later told reporters that it hasn鈥檛 been determined whether all six shots actually hit the man. The officer who fatally shot the man received 140 hours of training in mental health first aid training, crisis intervention, and auxiliary crisis negotiation, officials said. 

Brown said that the information, or lack thereof, about the shooting left him to question whether the man shot and killed by MPD changed his mind about his commitment to a healthcare facility while on the way to the hospital. 

Days after the fatal shooting, Brown also continues to demand answers about why the officer on the scene didn鈥檛 have a taser. 鈥淭he lack of respect and dignity that the powers in this city have for minorities shows its ugly face when we are in crisis and seeking assistance,鈥 he said. 

鈥淐hief Carroll said police were trying to get him back into the ambulance,鈥 Brown said. 鈥淎re you saying it鈥檚 involuntary? If you got a crisis intervention specialist dealing with someone who鈥檚 not in control of themselves, why wouldn鈥檛 you provide specialists with tasers?鈥

Secure D.C. Omnibus Bill Goes Through Several Changes 

This fatal officer-involved shooting took place a day after the D.C. Council approved the inclusion of D.C. Council member Brooke Pinto鈥檚 Secure D.C. Omnibus Amendment Act on its Feb. 6 legislative agenda. The bill includes provisions that roll back some police accountability measures that the council approved after George Floyd鈥檚 murder.聽

A submitted by the Council Office of Racial Equity on Jan. 26 found that the Secure D.C. Omnibus Amendment Act, if passed, would exacerbate the incarceration and marginalization of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) in the District. 

, including Brown, have since called for the D.C. Council striking down the comprehensive bill. 

On Monday, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson told reporters that, even with concerns about the REIA鈥檚 findings, the council will call the bill up for a vote. He predicted that, in addition to amendments recently submitted by Pinto鈥檚 office, the bill would go through additional changes between the first and second vote. 

He went on to say that he wanted the council鈥檚 general counsel to examine the bill before the second vote. 

While Mendelson acknowledged the significant impact of crime on Black communities and the need for long-term solutions that tackle poverty, he said such solutions don鈥檛 directly or immediately address carjackings and other violent crimes that have kept D.C. residents under siege. 

As he鈥檚 done over the last several months, Mendelson pointed to as an impediment in curbing violent crime. He told reporters that he stands ready to provide the department with the resources needed to change course. 

鈥淚f people commit crime and don鈥檛 get arrested, there鈥檚 no deterrent, no accountability,鈥 Mendelson said. 鈥淲e鈥檝e got to increase the case closure rates. We can talk about sentencing until the cows come home but if you don鈥檛 arrest, there鈥檚 no sentencing.鈥 

Not long before Mendelson鈥檚 press briefing, Pinto鈥檚 office circulated several amendments to the Secure D.C. Omnibus Amendment Act that address council members鈥 concerns about privacy, civil liberties, and public health, among other pressing issues. 

One amendment, for instance, mandates that footage captured in the emergency communication and video surveillance systems for the transit corridor pilot program be deleted after 30 days, unless needed as evidence in criminal proceedings. 

Another amendment broadens access to youth records held by D.C. Department of Youth and Rehabilitative Services to all council members, as long as they ensure confidentiality. In what some social justice advocates may consider a victory, another amendment strikes language that narrowed the scope of officer disciplinary records available through the Freedom of Information Act. 

Meanwhile, another amendment dealing with body-worn camera footage strikes a provision that allows the redaction of police officers. In regard to law enforcement vehicular pursuits, an amendment reverses the repeal of a provision that classified certain police pursuit tactics as either serious uses of force or deadly uses of force. 

Other amendments to the Secure D.C. Omnibus Amendment Act added a 鈥渕erger鈥 provision to the bill鈥檚 new strangulation offense so that a person convicted of multiple overlapping crimes from the same act would only be sentenced for the offense that carries the highest potential sentence. 

Another amendment further clarified the meaning of carjacking so that it requires that defendants are taking car keys 鈥渨ith the purpose and effect of immediately taking the motor vehicle of another.鈥 

An amendment concerning drug-free zones expands the notice requirement so that the police chief is required to not only notify the council chairman and relevant social services agencies about a drug-free zone designation, but all licensed medical or social services clinics operating adjacent to the zone and its boundaries. 

The amendment also mandates MPD to issue a general order that ensures people seeking or receiving medical and social services near a drug free zone can do so without interference. 

The Informer unsuccessfully attempted to speak to Pinto in person about the REIA. Later, Pinto, responding to an Informer inquiry, once again noted that the legislation came about after she spoke with District residents. 

“Secure D.C. responds to and brings together feedback from thousands of D.C. residents across all eight wards on meaningful and sustainable solutions that will address the harmful levels of crime that are disparately impacting Black and brown victims and communities, prevent crime from happening in the future, and strengthen our government coordination and oversight,鈥 Pinto wrote in a statement. 

鈥淭he interventions I am moving in Secure D.C. reflect the need for fair and consistent enforcement of laws that are in place to drive down crime in our communities and the need to ensure the small number of individuals repeatedly engaging in violence are held accountable and prevented from reoffending,鈥 she added. 

Use of Force Still at Play, MPD Officials Say 

The officer involved in the fatal shooting on the 1300 block of North Capitol Street NW is currently on administrative leave since shooting and killing the man in crisis. The Office of the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice hasn鈥檛 released the officer鈥檚 name. 

Once USAO collects investigative material and makes a determination about charges, MPD will launch its own investigation, using body-camera worn footage and other evidence as a guide.

On Jan. 31, Carroll told The Informer that MPD is working to make future press conferences open to the public. He also said that, as of that date, all sergeants, and some field officers, carry tasers. 

In regard to the fatal officer-involved shooting, MPD officials admitted that, upon further investigation, it has become unclear whether the man shot and killed by an MPD officer on Jan. 24 was voluntarily admitted in the midst of his mental health crisis. 

Carroll said that the officer, with his several hours of mental health and crisis intervention training, was called in place of D.C. Department of Behavioral Health. 

In recent years, law enforcement agencies across the U.S. have made efforts to equip officers with crisis intervention training, often with the guidance of the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), a nonprofit research and policy organization that provides management services, technical assistance, and executive-level education. 

Toward the end of last year, MPD Chief Pamela A. Smith announced the rollout of PERF鈥檚 Integrating Communications Assessment and Tactics (ICAT) training. PERF developed this training, currently in use within 120 law enforcement agencies across 30 states, in the aftermath of Mike Brown鈥檚 2014 death and the protests that followed. 

The training, which supplements the mental health first aid training that officers had been receiving since 2022, includes classwork and scenario-based training where officers learn to safely engage suspects.  

Smith said that she hoped to have more than 3300 officers trained in ICAT before the end of 2024. 

While at the Metropolitan Police Academy Tactical Training Center in Southwest in December, she and Lindsey Appiah, D.C.鈥檚 deputy mayor for public safety and justice, emphasized that ICAT isn鈥檛 designed to eliminate use of force, but provide officers with various tools to 鈥渉andle incidents safely and successfully.鈥 

, effective April 27, 2023, outlines that officers may use force that鈥檚 proportionate to the circumstances to: accomplish an arrest, detention, and/or search; overcome resistance directed at the officer; prevent physical harm to an officer or another person, including suicide and self-inflicted injury; and prevent property damage or loss. 

The general order forbids force as a means of punishing or retaliating against a person for past conduct, or on the basis of a person鈥檚 race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, disability, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation and other protected characteristics. 

The order also encourages officers to defuse situations with advice, warning, verbal persuasion and tactical communication, and consider whether a subject鈥檚 failure to comply with commands stems from a medical condition, mental impairment, language barrier, or other factors beyond the subject鈥檚 control. Policy dictates that, in these cases, officers consider techniques and resources that would help to resolve the situation without force. 

A use of force matrix included in the order outlines responses based on the category of perceived threat. Passive resisters, for example, receive control holds intended to help officers gain control and cooperation. 

Engagement with active assailants, described in the order as those whose actions demonstrate intent to inflict imminent death or bodily injury, allows officers to apply deadly force if they 鈥渞easonably believe鈥 that it鈥檚 necessary to protect the officer or any person other than the assailant. 

Last week, Carroll told reporters that officers, even those with crisis intervention training, have to use discernment when out in the field engaging a suspect. 

鈥淎ny death is tragic but the officer has to make sure that they鈥檙e safe,鈥 Carroll said in reference to the fatal officer-involved shooting. 鈥淎ll the measures that took place were tools that we can use to mitigate this.鈥 

Sam P.K. Collins has more than a decade of experience as a journalist, columnist and organizer. Sam, a millennial and former editor of WI Bridge, covers education, police brutality, politics, and other...

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