A man posed as a police officer to gain entry to a “sheltered home” for youth in DC while awaiting trial, shooting a 16-year-old boy and an “innocent” staffer, police said Wednesday.
It was the first such attack in D.C. at such a location, whose addresses are kept strictly confidential, authorities said.
The incident occurred just before 3 p.m. Tuesday at the 6000 block of Clay Street in Northeast D.C., when a man wearing a vest that read “police” and a badge pretended to be serving a warrant at the facility, according to the Metropolitan Police Department.
“That’s not proper procedure for the way these things usually go, and the person who ran the facility instructed them that … that’s not the right way to do this,” Commander John Haines said at a news conference Wednesday. .
But the suspect “continued to ask questions about a particular individual” before quickly recognizing the teen, pulled out a gun and began firing, Mr. Haines said.
“It’s our belief that he was definitely trying, targeting that person specifically,” he said. “Unfortunately, during the gunfire, an innocent person who worked there was also hit by gunfire.”
The suspect fled in a dark SUV and the victims were taken to hospital, where the teen was in stable condition on Wednesday, Mr Haines said, adding he believed the staff member, 42-year-old Maryland resident William Patton, was been released.
The suspect was left on the loose Thursday and a $10,000 reward is being offered for information leading to his arrest. When he arrived at the residence, the suspect was wearing “a tactical vest, or what appeared to be a bulletproof vest”, along with “some sort of star-shaped badge” around his neck and a “police-type patch”. ‘ said Mr Haines.
“We don’t know exactly what that was, but we do believe it … could have come from another jurisdiction,” he added.
The scene of the shooting was described by Hilary Cairns, director of the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, during the briefing as a “sheltered home place for young people sentenced in court or awaiting trial”.
The locations of such facilities are carefully secured, residents are supervised and security protocols are in place.
Ms Cairns said she was “super worried” and the investigation was ongoing.
“This is the first time something like this has happened,” she said.
However, it was the second time in less than a week that crimes were committed by suspects posing as law enforcement officers.
On Dec. 14, four men in tactical gear and carrying guns and a crowbar broke into a residence on Bay Street in Southeast DC, telling the occupants they belonged to the FBI — before making off with a loot that included a black safe , $3,300 in cash, a silver Audi Q3 sedan and a $12,000 Rolex watch.
Police said on Wednesday that no connection has been made between the two crimes, and Mr Haines stressed that they were isolated incidents.
“One thing I want to emphasize: in this case, the public as a whole is not at risk,” he said on Wednesday. “Based on these two incidents that we know of, these individuals were specifically targeting themselves or those locations. It’s not like a common crime, or… where people have to worry about being pulled over by someone who’s a fake police officer and trying to harm them. These individuals were specifically targeted for other reasons,”
However, he admitted that the impersonation of law enforcement “worry me.”
“It can sometimes make our job a little bit more difficult,” he said. “If people ever had any doubts about a police officer, their validity, whether it’s a real one or not, typically police officers… Number one, they very rarely work alone. So when we approach a house, if there’s a traffic stop… especially here in the city, it becomes a flagged police car.’
He added that officers carry ID at all times and reminded the public to politely ask to see it, and check for what appear to be authentic uniforms.
“If you see things that don’t look right, you can also call 911,” he said. “Say, ‘Look, I’ve got someone posing as a police officer here. I’m just trying to verify whether or not it is.’