Police Account in Teen's Shooting Disputed

(Rich Lipski - Twp)
By Carol Morello and Jamie Stockwell
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, March 1, 2006

A passenger yesterday disputed the initial police account of the fatal shooting of a teenager in the parking lot of a pancake restaurant over the weekend, saying the off-duty Alexandria police officer was not directly in front of their Jeep when he began firing.

Aaron Daughtrey, one of six teenagers in the SUV, said the Jeep was turning around the corner of a row of parked cars when the officer first opened fire from a distance that Daughtrey estimated was 20 to 30 feet.

The officer fired "first to the side, then head-on," said Daughtrey, 18, who was sitting in the hatch of the Jeep on a box that he said was pierced by a bullet about 3:40 a.m. Saturday. One of the shots shattered the rear side window, striking and killing his friend Aaron R. Brown, 18, of Springfield, who was seated behind the driver.

Daughtrey's account was the first offered by one of the passengers in the vehicle. He spoke to reporters outside his parents' home in Burke with his attorney by his side. Police would not comment on Daughtrey's statements because they have not determined what happened.

"The case remains under investigation, and our policy is not to comment on ongoing investigations," Amy Bertsch, a police spokeswoman, said last night.

"We said the vehicle was moving toward him. . . . Whether that was at an angle or straight on or what, we can't get into that. We're looking at the evidence, reviewing everything, to determine what happened."

Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille (D) did not return calls for comment last night. A spokesman for the city, Steve Mason, said officials "will not comment about the case at all until the police investigation is complete."

Officer Carl Stowe, a 13-year member of the force, was working security part time at the International House of Pancakes on Duke Street, police said. He told police that he had followed the teenagers out of the restaurant after they left without paying their bill.

Capt. John Crawford, a police spokesman, said on the day of the shooting that Stowe stepped into the path of the vehicle, and, "fearing for his safety," shot at it.

Alexandria police officers are allowed to shoot at a moving vehicle if they feel their lives are in danger and no bystanders are at risk -- but only if they have exhausted all other means of defense, according to the department's use-of-force policy.

Daughtrey and Breklyn Paulitzky, another passenger in the SUV, described a chaotic scene. They said the six friends were unaware of any orders to stop. Daughtrey said they could not have heard anything Crowe might have shouted because the windows were up and they were listening to music.

"I didn't hear him say 'Stop.' Nothing. No hand held up. Nothing," said Daughtrey, whose attorney would not permit him to answer questions about anything that happened before the friends got into the Jeep.

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