D.C. Police Trying to Explain Lack of Gun With Slain Teen

By Allison Klein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The D.C. police officer who fatally shot a 14-year-old boy in Southeast Washington on Monday night was off duty, out of uniform and acting on his own to find a minibike that he believed was stolen from his home, authorities said yesterday.

New details emerged about the killing of DeOnté Rawlings, who was shot in the head after he allegedly fired a gun at the officer and an off-duty colleague. But authorities were unable to answer a question that has raised a community outcry: If the youth had a gun, where is it?

No weapon was found, but the officer's unmarked car has a bullet hole, and authorities said they found shell casings from a .45-caliber gun.

Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier's explanation did little to satisfy family members and neighborhood residents. "Immediately after the shooting, there was a lot of chaos," Lanier said. "It's possible somebody picked the weapon up."

Police officials said the trouble began after the officers, riding in a personal car, saw the youth on the minibike and confronted him. Last night, authorities said they did not have the motorized bike. Like the gun, police speculated, it must have been taken from the scene before the area was secured.

The shooting took place about 7:30 p.m. Monday in the 600 block of Atlantic Street SE, in the Condon Terrace public housing complex, and soon drew a crowd protesting the police action. At first, the details were sketchy. As more information was provided, doubts persisted.

"There's a level of unrest and distrust," said William Lockridge, who represents the area on the D.C. Board of Education. He said that many people in the community "think this kid was shot and there was no reason. They don't buy the fact that the kid had a gun."

Yesterday, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty visited the youth's home, where family members shouted at him. "If there was a gun, police would have it by now," cried Carolyn Rawlings, DeOnté's cousin.

Fenty (D) promised a thorough investigation. "If I wanted to sweep this under the rug, I wouldn't be here," Fenty said. "I would have stayed downtown."

In an interview, Fenty said he understood the concerns about the case. "I agree with the family and the community. There has to be an answer to where the gun is, and we're going to find it," he said.

Lanier and other officials would not identify the officer who fired the fatal shot. Lanier's spokeswoman, Traci Hughes, said, "Considering the heated reaction of the community, we don't want to put an officer in danger."

Yesterday, police officials provided this account of the shooting:

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