WASHINGTON - The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia announced today that there is insufficient evidence to pursue federal criminal civil rights or District of Columbia charges against a detective from the Metro Transit Police who was involved in the fatal shooting on July 4, 2016, of Sidney Washington, Jr. in Northeast Washington.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) conducted a comprehensive review of the incident. This included interviews of civilian and law enforcement witnesses as well as a review of photographs, diagrams, physical evidence, recorded radio communications, video surveillance footage, the autopsy report, and reports from the Metropolitan Police Department, Metro Transit Police Department, and District of Columbia Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services.
According to the evidence, on July 4, 2016, officers and detectives with the Metro Transit Police Department were deployed to the area near the Deanwood Metro Station in Northeast Washington amid concerns about rival gangs and potential violence. At approximately 10:30 p.m., two rival groups began shooting fireworks at each other and into the Metro station. Metro Transit Police officers and detectives dispersed the two groups.
At least one team of two detectives remained in the area and parked in the 4900 block of Quarles Street NE; they were in an unmarked vehicle but wore tactical clothing that had “POLICE” written across the front. While parked in the area, the detectives saw Mr. Washington walk to the intersection of 49th and Quarles Streets NE, and display a silver handgun.
According to the evidence, the detectives saw Mr. Washington discharge the firearm toward a large crowd of people that were approximately 50 to 75 feet away. The detective behind the driver’s wheel of the unmarked police car pulled up next to Mr. Washington and yelled, “Police!” Instead of surrendering, Mr. Washington turned toward the detective and discharged his firearm at close range, striking the driver’s side door of the police car at least twice. The detective returned fire, striking Mr. Washington, who fell to the ground, landing in a seated position. Then, while in a seated position, Mr. Washington discharged additional rounds at the detective, and the detective fired back until Mr. Washington fell backwards onto the ground.
After the scene was secured, mobile crime technicians recovered a Colt .45-caliber pistol, which was near Mr. Washington’s body. The technicians also recovered nine 45-mm cartridge casings and one 9 mm cartridge casing from the intersection where Mr. Washington was observed discharging the weapon.
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for the State of Maryland determined that Mr. Washington, 21, died from multiple gunshot wounds. An autopsy determined that Mr. Washington had five gunshot wounds, including two to the chest, one to the upper abdomen, one to the right forearm, and one to the right buttock.
After a careful, thorough, and independent review of the evidence, federal prosecutors have found insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the detective used excessive force under the circumstances. To the contrary, there is sufficient evidence that the detective was acting in self-defense and defense of others at the time of the shooting.
Use-of-force investigations generally
The U.S. Attorney’s Office reviews all police-involved fatalities to determine whether sufficient evidence exists to conclude that any officers violated either federal criminal civil rights laws or District of Columbia law. To prove such violations, prosecutors must typically be able to prove that the involved officers willfully used more force than was reasonably necessary. Proving “willfulness” is a heavy burden. Prosecutors must not only prove that the force used was excessive, but must also prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the officer acted with the deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids. A conclusion that “there is insufficient evidence” is not meant to suggest anything further about what evidence, if any, exists.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office remains committed to investigating allegations of excessive force by law enforcement officers and will continue to devote the resources necessary to ensure that all allegations of serious civil rights violations are investigated fully and completely. The Metropolitan Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division investigates all police-involved fatalities in the District of Columbia.