Shooting that killed man, wounded 2 cops occurred during struggle: police

The Washington Post

A District of Columbia police officer and a man he was pursuing exchanged gunfire Thursday night during a violent struggle in the Trinidad neighborhood, police said Friday, leaving the man dead and two officers wounded.

Precise details of the altercation remain murky, including who shot who about 10:40 p.m. in the Northeast Washington neighborhood near Gallaudet University.

Police identified the man who was killed as Timothy Lionel Williams, 47. Peter Newsham, who was named the District's permanent police chief just hours before the shooting, said Williams fled from officers. Police did not say why Williams initially came to the attention of police, but he refused commands to stop.

Asked whether Williams shot both officers, Newsham said: "That's what we're trying to determine right now."

Authorities declined to identify the wounded officers but said both were admitted to an area hospital after being driven there by fellow officers moments after being shot. One has been released; the other was still undergoing treatment Friday afternoon.

"The prognosis for both of them is excellent," Newsham said.

Both officers were wearing body cameras, and police said they were reviewing the recordings. It is up to Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), with consultations from police and prosecutors, whether to make the video public, as she has done in several past shootings involving police.

Little could be learned about Williams on Friday. He was convicted of robbery and using a gun in the commission of a felony in 1995 in Prince George's County, and sentenced to 15 years in prison. At the time of the trial, he was serving prison time for a robbery conviction in the District, court records show.

Police said Williams had no fixed address, but relatives live a few blocks from where he was shot, in the Carver Langston neighborhood. Relatives reached at that address said they were too grief-stricken to comment.

The officers involved in the shooting had been sent to Trinidad as part of a Crime Suppression Team - groups of officers assembled to combat crime problems specific to certain neighborhoods or areas.

Newsham, noting several other shootings across the District Thursday night, including three separate attacks that wounded four people along four blocks of Wheeler Road in Congress Heights, said officers had seized seven guns in the city that day in addition to the one that Williams carried.

"It's hard to say how many other shootings our officers prevented with their good work," the chief said, describing the operations as high-risk. "They're the types of things we're going to keep doing."

Authorities said the Crime Suppression Team officers involved in Thursday's shooting were in Trinidad because of reports of gunfire there earlier. They were wearing uniforms and traveling in an unmarked car.

Police said the officers attempted to stop Williams, but he ran. Darren Watson, 33, a truck driver who recorded part of the altercation on his cellphone, said Williams ran by the car he was sitting in and glanced back as officers pursued. Watson said the man eluded officers for about a block, then doubled back and ran into the back of the unmarked police car, falling to the ground.

Watson said two officers piled on top of Williams, who at this point was on his back. "He was fighting back," Watson said.

Watson said he heard one officer yell several times, "Stop resisting, stop resisting," before he heard gunshots. He said he began to record just as an officer yelled, "shots fired."

Three more gunshots can be heard on the video, and one officer can be seen grabbing his stomach and falling to the ground. It appears that those shots were fired when at least one officer and Williams were on the ground. Watson, who lives in Temple Hills, Maryland, said he did not see Williams's gun but did say he was fighting the officers.

"I was just shocked," Watson said. "I looked this man in the face one second, and then a second later he's dead."

Watson said that as of Friday afternoon, he had not spoken with detectives. Newsham said investigators would reach out to him. He also said that police have other witnesses, in addition to the body-camera footage.

Newsham stressed that Watson's video begins midway through the incident. He said it would be "irresponsible" to judge the incident based solely on that video. "Hopefully anyone looking at one small piece of evidence doesn't draw any conclusions," he said.

Trinidad, which was so violent in 2009 that then-Police Chief Cathy Lanier established military checkpoints to curtail shootings, is slowly emerging as a more stable neighborhood, where house prices range widely but some command prices in excess of a half-million dollars. It is located north of Capitol Hill and near bustling H Street.

Kathy Henderson, an Advisory Neighborhood Commission member from Trinidad, said residents are more concerned with crime intruding on their community from the outside. She said the community is good about pressuring police for extra patrols and that "people understand that we're not tolerating chaos and lawlessness."

The neighborhood where the shooting occurred is lined largely with rowhouses and some two-story apartment buildings. It is in sight of the busy five-way intersection called Starburst, crossed by roads that include Florida Avenue, Bladensburg Road and H Street. New condos are rising nearby.

One woman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said a bullet had hit the lamp on her front porch, scattering glass. "Pop, pop, pop," she said of the sounds. Another resident said she heard roughly 15 shots fired in quick succession.

Dolly McCary, a lifelong resident, spent part of Friday cleaning up discarded police tape. "You might get a purse-snatching around here, but not a shooting like this," she said.

Jennifer Jenkins and Clarence Williams contributed to this report

Copyright © 2017, The Virginia Gazette
70°