U.S. Attorney’s Office Concludes Investigation Into Fatal Shooting at Southwest Washington Recreation Center
No Charges to Be Filed Against Metropolitan Police Department Officers
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 two officers from the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) who were involved in the May 16, 2017, fatal shooting of Isabelle Duval in Southwest 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 and from Ms. Duval’s vehicle, including an operable Ruger SR 22 .22LR semi-automatic pistol; an operable .45 caliber Zenith Zig 1911 semi-automatic pistol loaded with six .45 caliber GECO cartridges; a black magazine loaded with ten .22 caliber REM cartridges; an extended clip magazine loaded with nineteen 9mm cartridges of various brands; and three empty magazines.
According to the evidence, on May 16, 2017, at approximately 6:26 p.m., two Seventh District officers were dispatched to the Bald Eagle Recreation Center located at 100 Joliet Street SW, for the report of a “woman with a gun.” Several moments earlier, Ms. Duval had driven her gray Nissan Altima into a tree next to the recreation center, after previously leaving the scene of an accident six tenths of a mile away. Civilian witnesses approached Ms. Duval’s smoking vehicle to help her get out. Although Ms. Duval appeared to have a broken leg, she told the witnesses that she did not want them to call 911 because she had a warrant for her arrest. Ms. Duval then pulled out an operable Ruger SR 22 .22LR semi-automatic pistol, and started crawling and scooting towards the front door of the recreation center. As one witness called 911, two other witnesses moved the children who were on the adjoining playground and inside the recreation center to safety. When Ms. Duval reached the front door, she tried to get into the building, but the doors were locked. She then sat down in front of the entrance with the weapon in her hand.
When the two Seventh District officers arrived at the recreation center, they observed Ms. Duval sitting in front of the recreation center with the weapon still in her hand. The officers, and two other officers who had arrived on the scene, approached Ms. Duval and repeatedly ordered her to drop the weapon, but she did not comply. At approximately 6:32 p.m., as one of the officers repositioned his cruiser onto the grass next to the sidewalk so that the officers could use the doors of the cruiser as ballistic shields, Ms. Duval rose up on her knees and pointed her weapon at the officer in the cruiser. The initial two responding officers, both of whom were positioned in front of Ms. Duval with civilians to their rear, immediately fired their weapons in response. Ms. Duval was struck once in the center of the chest and once in the left buttock, and a bullet grazed her thigh and groin. She fell to the ground and dropped the weapon by her side.
The officers immediately holstered their weapons and ran towards Ms. Duval to render medical assistance, but she no longer had a pulse when personnel arrived from the District of Columbia Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services. Ms. Duval, 41, was then transported to Howard University Hospital, where she was officially pronounced dead. The autopsy report indicates that the cause of Ms. Duval’s death was the gunshot wound to her chest, and the toxicology report revealed that Ms. Duval was under the influence of alcohol, cocaine, methamphetamine, and fentanyl.
Department of Forensic Sciences technicians recovered Ms. Duval’s operable Ruger SR 22 .22LR pistol with an empty magazine inserted into the weapon’s well, and another weapon and multiple rounds of ammunition, from her vehicle. They also recovered seven cartridge casings that were fired by the two shooting officers.
After a careful, thorough, and independent review of the evidence, federal prosecutors have found insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officers used excessive force under the circumstances. To the contrary, there is sufficient evidence that the officers were 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.