Gunman, Hostage Slain in Standoff

Catherine Brown, a teacher at the Beauvoir School of Washington National Cathedral, was being held by an ex-boyfriend.
Catherine Brown, a teacher at the Beauvoir School of Washington National Cathedral, was being held by an ex-boyfriend. (Courtesy Of Beauvoir Elementary School)
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By Steve Hendrix
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 25, 2008

A police standoff involving an armed man and a hostage, who was a teacher at the Beauvoir School in the District and apparently his estranged girlfriend, ended with the two of them fatally shot in her Montgomery Village home this weekend, Montgomery County police said yesterday.

Officials described a tense and confused scene with multiple shots fired and said it was unclear whether the fatal shots were fired from the assailant's handgun or by one or both of the two police officers who went to the home in the 9400 block of Vineyard Haven Drive.

"We are still awaiting results of the medical examiner autopsy to see exactly what happened," said Lt. Paul Starks, a police spokesman. At least one officer opened fire, he said. "The man was armed with a gun and holding a woman against her will. As the officers were attempting to calm the man, shots were fired."

Police did not say how long the confrontation lasted.

The assailant was identified as Michael K. Wilson of Hagerstown, a private security guard employed by Washington National Cathedral in Northwest Washington. The woman, who had recently purchased the house on Vineyard Haven, was identified as Catherine Brown, a first-grade teacher at the Beauvoir School, an elementary school on the cathedral grounds. Brown was to have begun her second year at the school tomorrow.

Beauvoir was one of the facilities Wilson patrolled, according to cathedral officials, along with St. Albans School for Boys and the National Cathedral School for Girls.

"He's been a highly regarded employee of our police department for about four years," said Kathleen Cullen, spokeswoman for the Protestant Episcopal Cathedral Foundation. "This is a shock for everybody."

Cullen said she was unaware of any personal relationship between Wilson and Brown.

According to neighbors, Brown and Wilson had been dating when she moved into the house this summer. They said she had begun to fear the man she described to friends as a former police officer.

"She said, 'If you see his vehicle, call the police,' " said Sandy Kramer, who took occasional walks with Brown and recently attended the Montgomery County fair with her. She added that about a month ago, when Brown was away on a beach vacation, she saw Wilson drive by Brown's home but that he was gone when police arrived.

"We're all going to miss her," Kramer said. "She was the nicest lady."

Montgomery officials could not say yesterday whether Brown had ever complained to police about Wilson or sought restraining orders.

Police said that they received a report of a woman at Brown's address screaming about 10:30 p.m. Saturday and that an armed man was trying to force a woman into the home. According to neighbors, Wilson had also hit Brown in the front yard. Two officers from the 6th Police District responded and found the two in the garage, with Wilson threatening Brown with a handgun.

"We heard three pops," said Therese-Marie Harkey, who lives four houses away. "My husband said they were gunshots, but I thought it was fireworks until we began hearing shouts of 'Police!' "

Investigators seemed to be paying particular interest to where the shots came from, Harkey said. "They seemed to be out there for a long time doing triangulation measurements," she said.

Starks identified the responding officers as Sandra Moss, a nine-year veteran of the force, and Kenneth Moreau, who was hired in 2005. Both have been placed on routine administrative leave during the investigation.

In a statement, Beauvoir's head of school, Paula Carreiro, said that prayers are with both the Brown and Wilson families. "This is a horribly sad and traumatic event for all of us in the Beauvoir community," she wrote.

"Cathy had taught at Beauvoir for a year and in her brief time at Beauvoir, she became a wonderful and important person in the life of our School," the statement said. "Her warmth and deep caring for children will be sorely missed.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company