Hyattsville Man Killed During Standoff

By Hamil R. Harris and James Hohmann
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Neighbors described a tense night of intermittent gunfire, loudspeaker announcements and warnings to residents to stay away from windows as police tried to end a seven-hour standoff with a man who had shot at an acquaintance and officers, then barricaded himself inside his Hyattsville apartment.

When the man refused to come out, Prince George's County police played a tape-recorded plea over a loudspeaker from a woman who officers said had an "on and off" relationship with the man. When that tactic failed, officers used a battering ram on an armored vehicle to break a window and a robot to remove the front door.

"They kept saying, 'Turn on the lights. Come out! We won't harm you,' " said Lambert Mbom, 35, who lives in the complex and witnessed the standoff Monday night. "It is frustrating; they kept pleading with him all night to come out, but he never did."

Early yesterday, as police closed in on him, Brook T. Genet, 29, of the 3400 block of Toledo Terrace, climbed through a window and was shot multiple times as he tried to get away, police said. He was taken to a hospital and was pronounced dead.

Several high-ranking law enforcement officials at the scene defended the decision to use force.

"This guy really put the community at severe risk," said Maj. Kevin Putnam, special operations commander. "We exhausted all means that we had to try and get him to come out. He just did not want to come out. When he did come out, I believe his intentions were to do more harm."

The shooting comes 11 days after an off-duty county officer fatally shot an 18-year-old man who police say tried to rob the officer at gunpoint in the parking lot of a Forestville apartment complex.

The Hyattsville standoff began about 10:30 p.m. Monday after a man arrived at Genet's apartment to retrieve keys to a car the men had rented over the weekend and planned to return Monday, according to police. Police said the men argued, and Genet "pulled out a gun and started shooting," Mbom said.

Someone called 911, and when police arrived at the apartment, Genet shot at them, officers said. The special operations unit arrived with armored vehicles, barreling through a wooden fence separating the complex from the Mall at Prince George's.

For several hours, Putnam said, officers tried to get Genet's attention by calling his cellphone and home telephone and by using a public-address system. Police said that earlier in the standoff, officers had observed Genet walking around inside the garden apartment. Later, Genet closed the blinds and put a mattress against a window, police said.

Police located the girlfriend and played the tape because the woman had reported to police Monday that a gun had been stolen from her.

Witness Zora McCarthy, 27, said that police positioned themselves in a small grassy area between the two three-story apartment buildings. She recalled hearing police officers telling Genet over the loudspeaker that they were concerned about him.

Another witness, who spoke on condition of anonymity because she feared retribution from those who knew Genet, said tempers first flared Saturday. The man who was shot at Monday night banged on the door of Genet's apartment Saturday and came back Monday, she said.

About 3:30 a.m. yesterday, police shattered Genet's window with a battering ram and used a robot to remove the front door, Putnam said.

About 5 a.m., police said, Genet climbed through his window, crouched down and headed west along a narrow sidewalk hugged by bushes at the edge of the apartment. When he reached the side of the building, officers shot him.

Three hours later, Assistant Chief Roberto Hylton pointed out the small-caliber semiautomatic handgun that he said Genet had been holding when he tried to get away. The weapon lay in a grassy area, surrounded by more than a dozen yellow markers indicating shell casings.

Court records indicate that Genet had a history of mental illness and had several earlier run-ins with the law in Maryland, Virginia and the District. He was sentenced to a year in jail after being convicted of larceny in Arlington eight years ago; all but 42 days were suspended. In 2002, he was convicted of drunken driving in Alexandria District Court. Later on, he was charged with driving on a suspended license.

In 2005, a judge authorized the District's Department of Mental Health to detain Genet for seven days after his mother called police to report that he was assaulting his sister.

A police officer concluded in his report that Genet "is a danger to himself and others." A psychiatrist wrote that Genet had a history of bipolar disorder and had not taken his medication for a long time.

In 1995, Genet changed his name from Beruk Genet Tarekegn, according to Maryland court records.

The officers who fired their weapons during the standoff with Genet have been placed on paid administrative leave.

Staff writer Howard Schneider and staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.

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