Fatal Shooting by D.C. Officer Investigated

By Elissa Silverman and Theola Labbé-DeBose
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A man fatally shot Sunday by an off-duty D.C. police officer was identified yesterday as a Metrobus driver, and his girlfriend expressed doubt that he would attempt a robbery.

"It doesn't sound like" something he would do, said the girlfriend, Crystal James, who lives near where the incident occurred. "He was about to buy a house. He also worked for Metro. Why would he rob somebody?"

Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier, who appeared yesterday before a D.C. Council committee, said that it appeared no rules were broken in the shooting, the second fatal D.C. police-involved shooting this year.

Police identified the slain man as Jelani K. Slay, 34, of Clinton. Metro said last night that he had worked nearly two years for the transit agency.

Police said Slay approached the officer about 5 a.m. as the officer sat in his personal vehicle after dropping off a friend in the 5300 block of B Street Southeast. Wearing a mask and brandishing a gun, Slay tried to rob them, police said.

Gunfire was exchanged, and Slay fled on foot, police said. He was found nearby and pronounced dead shortly afterward.

James said in an interview last night that she thinks that Slay was waiting for her return from work.

The shooting is under review by police and the U.S. attorney's office. Lanier said, "I don't have any reason to believe that there's any wrongdoing."

Officials have not publicly identified the officer. Although citing no written rule, police say it is policy not to release names of officers involved in shootings.

Police shootings are routinely reviewed for legality. The officers involved are considered witnesses. In this case, the officer is an 18-year member of the force, assigned to the 4th District. He was not injured.

Lanier testified yesterday that officer-involved shootings are down. In 2008, the department had a 55 percent reduction in police-involved shootings and a 63 percent reduction in fatal shootings. Lanier did not give the numbers of shootings.

Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) asked why he had not received the final report on the September 2007 fatal shooting of DeOnté Rawlings, 14, by Officer James Haskel.

Haskel and Officer Anthony Clay, off duty and out of uniform, were pursuing DeOnté because they suspected he had stolen a minibike from Haskel's garage. The officers said DeOnté was wounded in an exchange of gunfire, and an internal police investigation and an inquiry by the U.S. attorney's office found no violations of law or policy.

Kristopher Baumann, head of the D.C. police union, said that hours after the two officers were named Haskel's family received threats.

Assistant Chief Peter Newsham promised to get the report to Mendelson.

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