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 it has completed its review of the fatal shooting of Peter John, Jr., by a Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officer on Feb. 1, 2016, in the Clay Terrace area of Northeast Washington. After a careful review of all of the evidence, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has concluded that there is insufficient evidence to pursue federal criminal civil rights or District of Columbia charges against the officer involved in the fatal shooting of Mr. John.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Metropolitan Police Department conducted a comprehensive review of the incident, including interviews of civilian and law enforcement witnesses as well as a review of autopsy and toxicology reports, Mobile Crime and District of Columbia Department of Forensic Sciences reports, photographs, and diagrams; video footage enhanced by the FBI; DNA analysis; audio transmissions; and physical evidence collected on the scene, including a BB pistol that is virtually identical in appearance to a real firearm.
According to the evidence, the shooting took place Feb. 1, 2016, at approximately 2:07 a.m., in the 5300 block of Clay Terrace NE. The officer, who was assigned to patrol the area in a marked MPD sport utility vehicle, first encountered Mr. John, 36, in the vicinity of the 300 block of 53rd Street NE. When the officer rolled down his window to ask Mr. John if he lived in the area, Mr. John started running and disappeared on nearby Cloud Place NE. As the officer continued his patrol, he saw Mr. John again, this time standing by a parking lot in the 300 block of 53rd Street NE. As the officer pulled up, Mr. John ran past the officer’s SUV and into the Clay Terrace housing area. After unsuccessfully trying to block Mr. John’s path by driving around the block, the officer drove back to the parking lot area and again saw Mr. John.
As the officer was pulling over, Mr. John ran past the officer’s SUV. The officer got out of his vehicle and pursued Mr. John on foot. As Mr. John turned left into the 5300 block of Clay Terrace, he slipped on the wet ground. According to the officer, as Mr. John fell, he saw a black gun, later determined to be a BB gun, fall from Mr. John’s hand. Mr. John landed on top of the gun. The officer, who was right behind Mr. John, could not stop his momentum and ended up straddling Mr. John while activating the emergency button on his radio for help. The officer ordered Mr. John to show his hands. Instead, Mr. John struggled repeatedly to push himself up from the ground while reaching under his body in the direction of the gun. As Mr. John raised up, the officer fired one round, fatally wounding Mr. John in the neck area. In less than 30 seconds, another officer arrived on the scene and observed the gun next to Mr. John’s body. DNA testing further confirmed that Mr. John’s DNA was on the weapon.
While the shooting was not captured on video, the footage of the dimly lit area shows furtive movements by Mr. John, to include Mr. John emerging from behind a building near Cloud Place, and his unprovoked flight from the officer.
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 to corroborate the officer’s account that he was acting in self-defense 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 fully and completely investigated. The Metropolitan Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division investigates all police-involved fatalities in the District of Columbia.