Police report details agent’s gunfire at wrong man after robbery report

August 20, 2013

Jamal Eugene Thomas didn’t steal the orange motor scooter. But police said he was riding one the same color and model when they saw him pull into a gas station on Minnesota Avenue shortly after an armed robbery a few blocks away in Northeast Washington.

Members of a D.C. police gun recovery unit — in an unmarked silver Dodge Ram pickup and accompanied by a federal agent — sped into the station about 10 p.m. Aug. 14. Authorities said Thomas, 20, sped off “at a high rate of speed,” according to a written police account obtained by The Washington Post.

Police chased Thomas and found him hiding under a house’s porch, according to the report. The federal agent saw the man’s arm extended and a black object in his right hand. The agent shot at him, missed and forced his surrender, according to the report.

Then police realized that they had the wrong man. The robbery victim initially identified the orange scooter as his, but he then saw that the speedometer was different. Then the victim told police that Thomas was not the man who had robbed him.

D.C. police said they would charge Thomas anyway — with assault on a police officer and driving without a license. But the U.S. attorney’s office declined to pursue the case, freeing Thomas from custody. Thomas, who lives in Northeast Washington, could not be reached to comment, and his attorney in an unrelated case did not respond to an interview request.

The written police account gives far more detail of the encounter than authorities previously made public.

D.C. police declined to comment, and Jeff Boshek, a spokesman for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said only that the incident remains under review by the agency’s shooting-review team. The agent who fired his gun, assigned to the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task force, did not return calls to his office.

The document describing the shooting says the officers were dressed in street clothes but were wearing ballistic vests, marked “Police,” over their shirts. The document states that when the pickup pulled into the station, Thomas drove through an alley before he lost control and crashed. He then ran across a church parking lot while ignoring repeated demands to stop.

Police said in the document that Thomas ripped the wooden lattice from a porch on Anacostia Road and crawled underneath. The ATF agent yelled, “Come out! Show me your hands!” according to the police document. “Thomas continued to refuse.” The document said Thomas was on his back and “extended his arm holding a black object in his right hand.” The agent fired once, missing Thomas, the document says.

Police said Thomas then surrendered and was arrested. The charge of assault on a police officer is broadly written and involves assaulting, resisting, intimidating or interfering with a law enforcement officer.

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