D.C. Officer Shoots Pregnant Colleague
By Ruben Castaneda and Debbi Wilgoren
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, December 20, 1995; Page D1 A pregnant D.C. police detective who interrupted an attempted carjacking yesterday was partly paralyzed after she was shot in the back by a fellow officer who mistook her for an armed robber, police and witnesses said. The injured officer, Lani Jackson-Pinckney, 33, was in critical but stable condition last night in the intensive care unit at Washington Hospital Center, officials said. The bullet entered the lower left of her back, above the hip, and lodged between two spinal bones, said Dennis Wang, a trauma surgeon at the hospital.
The bullet came very close to the spinal cord but did not touch it, Wang said. Jackson-Pinckney had little sensation from the waist down, Wang said; it was unclear whether the paralysis would be permanent. The bullet did not hit any vital organs, and there were no plans to remove it, Wang said.
The officer is about four months pregnant, Wang said, and the fetus was in good condition.
The carjacking suspect also was wounded, as was a witness. Neither injury was considered life-threatening. The shooting occurred about 1:30 p.m. in driving rain outside the D.C. Farmers Market at 1309 Fifth St. NE. Police Chief Larry D. Soulsby said last night that the similarity between yesterday's shooting and one in the 7th District in February was disturbing enough to prompt a review of training procedures for how officers on both sides of such conflicts should respond. High-ranking police officials said yesterday they were worried that the incident would increase racial tensions in the department. Jackson-Pinckney is black; the officer who fired, whom police identified as Robbie S. Dykes, 27, is white.
Both officers are assigned to the 5th Police District, which covers most of Northeast Washington west of the Anacostia River. Jackson-Pinckney, an eight-year member of the force, is a detective in the 5th District and works in civilian clothes. Police said Dykes has been with the department for a year and is assigned to foot patrol at the market. The circumstances strikingly parallel those of the February shooting, which brought the 7th District to the brink of a racial conflagration.
In that case, a uniformed D.C. police officer who is white shot and killed a gun-wielding black man dressed in civilian clothes on a Southeast Washington street corner. It turned out that the gunman was James McGee Jr., a fellow officer who had pulled his gun to interrupt a robbery of a cabdriver. Both McGee and the officer who fired, Mark A. Baker, were assigned to the 7th Police District.
In the days after the shooting, many black 7th District officers swapped rumors about how the shooting occurred, and white and black officers engaged in angry confrontations. Officers were given daily briefings on the investigation, and the situation calmed. Baker, who has been cleared preliminarily by the department, returned to patrol duty in the 7th District in October.
Some black officers were talking about yesterday's shooting in racial terms.
"It's going to separate us," said a black officer assigned to the 5th District, who asked not to be named.
"There's going to be more tension," said another black officer assigned to another district. "They [white officers] are so quick to shoot us. I hope it was an honest mistake.
Soulsby said he had heard no reports of conflicts between black and white officers in the wake of yesterday's shooting but was ordering full briefings at all 5th District roll calls so rumors would not spread.
According to police and witnesses, Jackson-Pinckney and Officer Lajuan Lynch, 28, were driving near the market when someone ran up to them and told them of a robbery.
The two officers called for backup and ran to where three men were struggling near a van outside the market.
The two female officers, both dressed in civilian clothes, pulled out handguns and announced that they were police, said Debra McDonald, an employee of Murray's Country Meats at the D.C. Farmers Market, who saw the events that led to the shooting.
The two would-be carjackers tried to run away. Lynch chased one of the men, and Jackson-Pinckney grappled with the other a few feet from the van.
According to the police account, Jackson-Pinckney was hunched over and pointing her pistol at the robbery suspect when Dykes arrived. Dykes, apparently believing he was the first officer on the scene of a robbery, identified himself and ordered the person with the handgun to drop the weapon, police said.
Soulsby said Dykes couldn't tell whether Jackson-Pinckney was male or female and had no idea that she was an officer as she crouched over the suspected carjacker. He also said that it appeared that Jackson-Pinckney started to turn toward Dykes while still holding her pistol.
Dykes fired, striking Jackson-Pinckney in the back, the robbery suspect in the shoulder and a witness in the leg.
"I told him, That's a cop,' " McDonald said. "He just stood there and looked at me. Then he called in on the radio, Officer down!' "
Soulsby called Jackson-Pinckney's detention of the suspect "a very heroic thing." But he also said Dykes was "doing his job" by drawing his weapon when he saw one person aiming a gun at another during what he thought was a robbery.
Police officials said Dykes had discharged his weapon on duty once before, in an incident in which officers and suspects exchanged shots, but no one was hit.
Inspector Reginald L. Smith, 5th District commander, said among proposals being discussed to prevent such shootings are combining the roll calls of detectives and uniformed officers on each shift, so that everyone on duty knows who they are working with and what the plainclothes officers are wearing, and giving plainclothes officers a bright orange skullcap to don when entering a dangerous situation.
The man with whom Jackson-Pinckney grappled was identified as
Gregory Gary, 37, of the 1100 block of Owens Place NE. The second
carjacking suspect was arrested after a foot chase and an exchange of
shots with other officers. He was identified as Rudolph Renfrow, 43, of
the 1600 block of D Street NE. Police said both men are charged with
armed kidnapping, armed carjacking and assault on a police officer.
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