'Fearing for My Life, I Fired' Continued from Page 5
Two teenagers were speeding in a Plymouth to a liquor store called the 51 Club on Naylor Road SE, trying to beat the 2 a.m. closing time. They swerved to miss a braking car and hit a Potomac Electric Power Co. pole at 1:50 a.m. on Aug. 20, 1995.
The driver, Damon Henry, an 18-year-old construction worker, flattened the left rear tire of the Plymouth with the impact. But he and Davon Williams, 17, drove on to the liquor store. They did not know it, but an off-duty police officer had witnessed the accident. Rodney Daniels, 29, was a three-year member of the force. Daniels lived in an apartment nearby and had taken his dog out for a late-night stroll.
While Daniels checked the utility pole for damage, Henry and Williams got someone to buy them liquor and left the store within 10 minutes. Daniels heard the grinding of the Plymouth's tire rim coming down the road; a bystander, he later recounted, told him the hit-and-run car was returning.
Daniels stepped into Naylor Road and raised his police badge above his head in one hand. In the other, he held his Glock 9mm, being careful not to point the gun at the oncoming car, he later told investigators.
Daniels said he yelled "Police! Stop the vehicle!" three times. The car slowed when it was about 30 feet away and then sped toward him, Daniels said.
"After the driver refused to stop and fearing for my life, I fired several rounds at the driver of the car," Daniels said in a written statement to investigators after the shooting. Daniels said the car was 20 feet away when he started to fire, and that he then "jumped" out of the way before firing more shots.
The car missed Daniels, but Daniels who fired 11 times did not miss the car.
Daniels's bullets hit the front and driver side of the Plymouth. Henry was hit in the back with a bullet that lodged in his spine, paralyzing his legs, according to a surgeon's report. Henry was charged with assaulting a police officer with a dangerous weapon his car. His mother, Terri Henry, said at the time that passenger Davon Williams who was not injured said the two teenagers didn't realize Daniels was a police officer.
Damon Henry, a ninth-grade dropout, had three previous felony arrests two for assault with a deadly weapon all of which had been dropped. His only conviction had been for misdemeanor destruction of property.
Henry's injuries kept him from appearing in court, and the assault charge against him was dropped in January 1996. After months of rehabilitation, he was still unable to wash or dress himself and required close care for most of the day, according to court papers filed by his attorneys.
Henry's injuries led to infections that caused septicemia, and he died on Feb. 5, 1997. Before he died, he sued the police. After his death, his mother took over the lawsuit, which is pending.
Michael Cosgrove, a former Miami police assistant chief hired as an expert by the Henry family, said that Daniels used a "self-initiated threat" as a justification to fire. The District's expert, former D.C. police chief Jerry Wilson, said Daniels's actions were "consistent with the proper standards of care."
On June 18, 1997, nearly two years after the shooting, the department's Use of Service Weapon Review Board concluded that the shooting was not justified. In a deposition in the civil suit, Daniels said his commanding officer had accused him of negligent use of a firearm.
"He stated that I placed myself in that position," Daniels testified in the deposition. "As though I created the danger or the threat."
Daniels received a nine-day suspension. He served four days of the suspension, and the rest were held in abeyance. He said in the deposition that he disagreed with the punishment "because I was in fear of my life. And also I was taking police action."
Daniels said through a police spokesman that he could not comment because of pending litigation.
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