By Steve Hendrix
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 16, 2008
A carjacking suspect who was shot Friday night by a Seat Pleasant police officer died at a hospital early yesterday, Prince George's County police said.
Authorities identified the man as Victor White, 23, of the 6300 block of Buckler Road in Clinton. The officer, whose name was not released, has been placed on routine administrative leave pending an investigation of the shooting.
Elliott Taylor, chief of police in Seat Pleasant, a city of about 5,000 close to the eastern corner of the District, said in a statement that, according to an initial review, "the officer's actions appear to be consistent with our policy when confronting an armed carjacker."
According to county police, the incident began shortly before 9:20 p.m. when officers responded to a report of a carjacking in Lanham. A man reportedly approached a motorist at a gas station on Martin Luther King Jr. Highway, displayed a handgun and demanded his keys. The gunman fled in the victim's car.
A short time later, a Seat Pleasant police officer spotted the vehicle in the 5900 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Highway and confronted the driver. During the confrontation, police said, the officer discharged his weapon, striking the man in the upper body. A handgun was recovered at the scene, police said.
Officials described the officer as an eight-year police veteran who has been on the Seat Pleasant force for 2 1/2 years.
Attempts to locate White's relatives yesterday were unsuccessful.
The incident brings to nine the number of people fatally shot by police in Prince George's this year; the other eight were killed by county police. County police fatally shot three people last year and five the year before.
Seat Pleasant Mayor Eugene Grant, a former community activist who said he has been critical of county police in the past, said early information seems to support the Seat Pleasant officer's action in this case.
"Based on what I've been told so far, I don't see concerns about excessive use of force," said Grant, who visited the crime scene Friday night. "Obviously, I'm reserving final judgment until after the investigation is complete. But I'm thankful that some of our officers were on duty and paying attention."
Police closed parts of Martin Luther King Jr. Highway for several hours during the investigation, Grant said. Cpl. Clinton Copeland, a Prince George's police spokesman, said White attempted to drive away after the shooting and struck a telephone pole.
The mayor would not discuss further details of the event or name the officer involved, directing those questions to police. Seat Pleasant police did not respond to a message seeking comment beyond the chief's statement.
Grant said the carjacking was part of a worrisome resurgence of such crimes in the area. "Prince George's County has just been plagued with carjackings in the past two years," he said. "It seemed like there had been some reduction, but now it seems to have picked back up. A lot of them seem to take place at gas stations."
Grant said Seat Pleasant also appears to be a crossroads for carjackers and other criminals fleeing the District along East Capitol Street to MLK or Central Avenue. He said that issue would be a key concern as the city searches for a police chief to replace Taylor, who is leaving the force this month.
"We're going to be looking for a chief who understands the unique needs of our community based on our proximity to the District of Columbia," he said.