Because of an editing error, a Metro section article yesterday about a shooting by off-duty D.C. police Sgt. William C. Rollins incorrectly stated that Rollins had been hired to patrol a private security firm. Williams had been hired by a private security firm to patrol a law firm. (Published 8/6/87)
A District man who was paralyzed from the neck down when he was shot in the neck last year by an off-duty D.C. police officer died late Monday night of complications related to his injuries, his lawyers said yesterday.
As a result of the death of James J. Williams, 26, the police department planned to ask the U.S. attorney's office to reopen its criminal investigation of the March 1986 shooting at a downtown law firm, a police source said yesterday.
The U.S. attorney's office, which cleared Sgt. William C. Rollins of wrongdoing, routinely reviews deaths involving the use of a police service revolver. Sources said it was unlikely that a new investigation would lead to criminal charges.
Williams was shot by Rollins, a 21-year member of the police department and a member of its elite repeat offenders unit, during an alleged burglary attempt March 7, 1986. Rollins, who since has retired, had been hired to patrol a private security firm that had been the site of several burglaries.
After the incident, police conducted a routine investigation and discovered a security camera videotape that was at odds with the sergeant's initial explanation of the shooting.
A police spokesman said yesterday that investigators submitted an affidavit for Rollins' arrest to the U.S. attorney's office, but added that federal prosecutors cleared him of any criminal liability after an extensive investigation.
According to Williams' lawyers and law enforcement sources, Rollins initially told police that he shot Williams after confronting him because Williams reached into his pants pocket for what the officer thought was a gun.
The videotape, however, failed to show Williams reaching into his pocket, according to police sources and Williams' lawyers, Bernard Grimm and Terrell Roberts. Instead, the lawyers and sources said, it showed the officer grabbing Williams during a struggle, placing the gun against his neck and shooting him.
Rollins later said in a deposition, taken in connection with a lawsuit filed by Williams, that the shooting was accidental and that the gun went off during a struggle.
Sources said prosecutors declined to bring charges against Rollins after subjecting the videotape to an enhancement technique that enabled prosecutors to see the shooting from different angles.
Although the initial tape looked extremely "damaging," according to several people who saw it, a slow motion review of the shooting from other angles showed that it could have been accidental.
Williams died at the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Washington.