“He engaged the suspects who failed to follow his direction,” Takoma Park police said Wednesday. “The suspects attempted to flee in a vehicle at which time the officer discharged his service weapon.”
The officer has not been identified, but a Pentagon spokeswoman said he has been with the force since July 2019. He was previously a federal police officer and also served as a U.S. Army Military policeman and in the US Air Force as a combat crewman, the spokeswoman said.
Few details of the shooting have been released by authorities. Takoma Park police officials said there were at least three people besides the officer involved in the initial encounter. Officials said the officer told them he engaged with an unspecified number of people about a car possibly being broken into.
Williams and Johnson later showed up at Prince George’s County Hospital with gunshot wounds. They died there a short time later.
Neither Takoma Park police nor the Pentagon in their latest news releases said whether the officer who fired felt threatened during the encounter or whether anyone else was armed at the scene. The Pentagon statement listed regulations that might come into play in the case.
One states that using law enforcement authority while off-duty is generally limited to a “serious breach of the peace (when violence is being committed or immediately threatened) including assault and threats to kill, injure or maim.”
Another regulation governs fleeing vehicles. “Firearms may be discharged at moving vehicles when an employee has a reasonable basis to believe that the vehicle poses an imminent threat of death or seriously bodily harm to the employee or other,” states that regulation, according to the Pentagon spokeswoman. “Employees inside a vehicle will not discharge a firearm at an individual(s) outside of their vehicle or at another vehicle.”
According to the statement from the spokeswoman, Pentagon police officers have been permitted to take their duty weapons home when off duty since 9/11. The officer is current on all use of force and firearms qualifications, according to the Pentagon.
“I am committed to ensuring justice is served,” Takoma Park Mayor Kate Stewart said. “The City’s Police Department is working with Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office to conduct a complete and full investigation.”
Montgomery County Council President Tom Hucker (D-District 5), whose district covers Takoma Park, said, “Unfortunately this is only the most recent of far too many tragic shootings in our area. In general, we want our residents to call 911 rather than using deadly force on their own in response to activity they believe is suspicious.”
The incident in Takoma Park marked the second time in two weeks that an off-duty member of the Pentagon Force Protection Agency fired their weapon.
According to D.C. police, the officer, who was not identified, told investigators that the youth pointed a gun at him. The officer tried to grab it but was unsuccessful, and then pulled his own gun and fired at least one shot, according to his account.
Rebecca Tan, Julie Tate, Peter Hermann and Dan Lamothe contributed to this report.