Off-Duty Pr. George's Officer Kills Man, Claims Robbery Attempt

By James Hohmann and Debbi Wilgoren
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, July 26, 2008

An off-duty Prince George's County police corporal shot and killed a man who he said tried to rob him at gunpoint early yesterday morning. Police cordoned off an apartment complex in Forestville to search for a second man apparently involved in the robbery attempt, but authorities said last night they had not tracked him down.

The corporal, a 22-year veteran of the force, is a driver on the security detail of County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D), said Cpl. Stephen Pacheco, a police spokesman.

Sources familiar with the investigation identified the officer as Cpl. William M. Peaco of Upper Marlboro, who was also involved in on-duty shooting incidents in 1989 and 2001. Peaco did not return calls seeking comment.

The incident marks the second time that an officer who had served on Johnson's security detail was involved in a shooting. Keith A. Washington, a former driver for the county executive, was sentenced this spring to 45 years in prison for fatally shooting one unarmed furniture deliveryman and wounding another at his Accokeek home last year.

Police said yesterday that the officer, whom they did not name, called in at 3:42 a.m. to say he had shot a person who was trying to rob him in the 4400 block of Rena Road. The officer said he was approached by two armed men in the complex's parking lot.

The officer fired his department-issued 9mm Beretta several times, according to Officer Henry Tippett, a police spokesman, striking one of the suspects in the upper body. That man -- identified as 18-year-old John C. Watts of the 3200 block of 23rd Street SE in the District -- was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead a short time later.

Efforts to locate Watts's relatives yesterday evening were unsuccessful. People living near the 23rd Street SE address described Watts as a soft-spoken young man who kept to himself, but had played Pee Wee football while growing up.

The second person in the confrontation was believed to have fled in a dark-colored vehicle; it was not clear whether he was wounded. The officer was not injured.

In 1989, Peaco was one of three officers who fatally shot a suspected drug dealer, who reportedly pointed a gun at them in Oxon Hill. A grand jury later cleared him of wrongdoing.

In May 2001, Peaco was part of a SWAT unit that entered a Fort Washington home where a mother reported that her mentally ill son was acting bizarrely. When officers entered the home, police said at the time, the 37-year-old man walked toward officers with a 13-inch kitchen knife.

Peaco shot the man five times in two seconds with a 9mm submachine gun, according to court records. The man sued Peaco and the county for $15 million in damages, but a judge ruled that Peaco acted reasonably.

Workers' compensation records show that Peaco requested and received medical treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder after the incident.

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