An off-duty D.C. police officer charged with pulling his service revolver and firing into a packed car last year was “under attack” by the people in the car, the officer’s attorney told a D.C. Superior Court jury Tuesday.
The incident occurred just minutes after the officer offered money for sex with one of the vehicle’s occupants, prosecutors say.
Kenneth D. Furr, 48,who joined the police department in 1990, is charged with several counts, including assault with intent to kill and solicitation in the Aug. 26, 2011, incident.
“He was alone, outnumbered and under attack,” one of Furr’s attorneys, David Knight, said in his opening statement. “He was threatened, assaulted and pursued by a car full of people who wanted to do him harm.”
Knight, of the District’s Public Defender Service, said Furr feared for his life as the car, with five people in it, chased him into a Northwest Washington neighborhood. After the pursuing car and Furr’s car stopped, one of the five punched Furr several times, Knight said.
Furr then drove off, but the other car followed his and slammed into it, Knight said. Then Furr reached into his glove compartment, grabbed his pistol, climbed onto the hood of the other car and began shooting, Knight said. He fired five shots, and two of the occupants were injured.
“He tried to defend himself to survive,” Knight said.
Prosecutors offered a different story. Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Worm said Furr, whose blood-alcohol level tested at twice the legal limit, was “driving around looking for a transgender prostitute” when he got into a confrontation with the group in the area of Fifth and K streets NW about 4 a.m.
Worm said Furr twice offered a transgender woman $100, which the woman refused before walking to a nearby CVS to meet friends. Furr then offered the woman $500, according to court testimony, and the woman again refused. The woman met four friends at the drugstore.
One of her male friends confronted Furr about the solicitation, and Furr then became “aggressive” and began yelling at the group, Worm said. No one in the group, Worm said, had a gun.
The prosecutor also said that Furr yelled, “You’re going to die” before he shot into the vehicle’s windshield, she said.
“His actions that day were not okay for a police officer, a teacher or a construction worker,” Worm told the jury. “They are not okay.”
Worm said the five people in the car may offer varying accounts of the night’s events, based on where they were sitting at the time of the shooting. Furr’s attorneys gave indications that they plan to aggressively highlight those inconsistencies.
Prosecutors called one of the people injured in the shooting, Chloe Alexander Moore, whom Furr tried to solicit.
Moore, 26, said she and several of her gay and transgender friends would often “socialize” on the sidewalks of the downtown neighborhood between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Moore said some of her friends also worked as prostitutes in the area.
Moore said Furr approached her for sex and she refused and walked away. Moore said Furr’s eyes were red, she smelled alcohol and he was “very aggressive.”
During questioning by Furr’s attorney, Moore acknowledged that she didn’t tell the grand jury that one of her friends hit Furr before the shooting. “I didn’t forget; I just didn’t recall,” she said.
Knight also reminded Moore that she had a pending solicitation charge from the summer. Knight asked Moore whether she was seeking consideration from prosecutors in exchange for her testimony. “Of course. Who wouldn’t want a case dropped for something you weren’t guilty of,” she said rolling her eyes to the jury.
The attack initially drew criticism from gay rights activists as one in a series of attacks against gay and transgender victims.
Furr has been locked up in the D.C. jail since his arrest and remains on indefinite leave from the police force, a spokeswoman said. Sitting in the audience were Furr’s two adult daughters and his ex-wife. His daughters smiled at him when marshals escorted him into the courtroom.