U.S. Attorney’s Office Concludes Investigation Into Fatal Shooting in Northeast Washington
No Charges to Be Filed Against Metropolitan Police Department Officer
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 an officer from the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) who was involved in the Feb. 23, 2017, fatal shooting of Timothy Williams in Northeast Washington.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) conducted a comprehensive review of the incident, including interviews of civilian and law enforcement witnesses, and the review of body worn camera (BWC) and other video footage; autopsy and toxicology reports; District of Columbia Department of Forensic Sciences reports, photographs, and diagrams; audio transmissions; and physical evidence collected on the scene, including a loaded Springfield XD-9 semi-automatic pistol; 12 Speer 9mm Luger 14 cartridge casings; and an extended clip magazine loaded with 26 Speer 9mm Luger 14 cartridges.
According to the evidence, on Feb. 23, 2017, at approximately 10:42 p.m., two Fifth District Crime Suppression Team (CST) officers were on patrol in an unmarked MPD cruiser in the vicinity of Morse and Holbrook Streets NE. MPD officials had deployed the officers, and numerous other CST officers from both the First and Fifth Districts, to that area because of a shooting and a reported sound of gunshots that had occurred earlier that day, both within a one-mile radius.
As the officers drove northbound in the 1200 block of Holbrook Street NE, they saw an individual, later-identified as Mr. Williams, walking on the sidewalk. As corroborated by civilian witnesses, Mr. Williams was fidgeting, acting strangely, and repeatedly looking back in the direction of police activity that was occurring a block away. When one of the officers rolled down his passenger window to ask Mr. Williams if he could speak with him, Mr. Williams mumbled an expletive and continued walking. The officer, who was in full uniform, then exited the cruiser and walked several feet behind Mr. Williams, as the other officer drove the cruiser slowly forward. When Mr. Williams reached the intersection of Morse and Holbrook Streets, he cut behind the cruiser and ran in a diagonal direction across the intersection. After a brief chase, Mr. Williams tripped over a stop sign and stumbled into the rear driver’s side panel of the cruiser. As he was falling to the ground, Mr. Williams dropped an extended clip magazine loaded with 26 Speer 9mm Luger 14 cartridges, on which his DNA was later recovered. Mr. Williams stood up quickly, but the officers were able to grab his arms. When Mr. Williams started to struggle, the two officers used hand controls to take him to the ground.
Once on the ground, one of the officers attempted to search Mr. Williams’s waistband, but Mr. Williams continued to struggle, even briefly standing again. As corroborated by a civilian witness, Mr. Williams then pulled out a weapon from his waistband and fired multiple rounds. One of the officers took cover beside the officers’ cruiser, as the other officer continued to struggle with Mr. Williams until they both fell to the ground. Upon seeing Mr. Williams’s finger in the trigger of the weapon, the officer grabbed the barrel of the weapon to direct it away from his [the officer’s] head. From a position by the rear of the cruiser, the other officer, who could see Mr. Williams and his partner struggling on the ground for possession of the weapon, fired two rounds at Mr. Williams, striking him in the right knee and right ankle, but not incapacitating him. As Mr. Williams and the officer continued to struggle for possession of Mr. Williams’s weapon, the officer on the ground, who had not had the opportunity to unholster his own weapon, yelled for his partner to “shoot him! Shoot him!” The second officer then fired three more rounds into Mr. Williams’s back. As Mr. Williams’s body went limp, the officer on the ground was finally able to grab the weapon from Mr. Williams’s hand. When the officer attempted to stand up, however, he collapsed to the ground with a gunshot to his lower left abdomen. The shooting officer was also shot in his right buttock.
Personnel with the District of Columbia Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services transported Mr. Williams, 47, to Howard University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. An autopsy confirmed that Mr. Williams was shot five times, including three times in the back and twice in the lower extremities. The two officers were transported to MedStar Washington Hospital Center, where they were admitted in stable condition. The officer who was shot in the abdomen underwent surgery and remained in the hospital for several days, and the other officer was treated and released several hours later.
After a careful, thorough, and independent review of the evidence, federal prosecutors have found insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer used excessive force under the circumstances. To the contrary, there is sufficient evidence that the officer 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 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.