An alleged accomplice in the shooting of three undercover D.C. police officers was freed without bond less than six hours after he surrendered at police headquarters, prompting outrage among police union officials yesterday.
Thomas Fields, 18, of Fort Washington, was released Tuesday night and placed under the supervision of an unidentified D.C. Superior Court agent, court officials said. Two other suspects remained in custody yesterday facing charges of assault with intent to rob while armed.
The suspects are accused of shooting three undercover police officers last week at an abandoned gasoline station at South Capitol Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SW. According to police, the three had agreed to sell PCP to the officers, who were posing as drug buyers, but decided to rob them instead.
Gary Hankins, chairman of the Fraternal Order of Police, said a court commissioner's decision to release Fields undermines police and city officials' efforts to fight Washington's growing drug markets.
"This tells drug dealers you can even shoot a cop and be back on the streets in less than 24 hours," Hankins said.
A second suspect who surrendered shortly before noon Tuesday, 21-year-old William Lee Lumpkin of Southeast Washington, has been detained until his pretrial hearing Monday, court officials said.
The third suspect, 20-year-old Herbert Austin, was apprehended as he ran from the shooting scene last Wednesday night.
The U.S. attorney's office requested that the court detain Fields at least until his pretrial hearing today, but it was denied, officials said.
The shooting of the three officers was the third drug-related incident in the past month in which officers were shot. Six D.C. officers have been wounded in the incidents. In last week's shooting, Officer Troy Pumphrey was shot five times and critically wounded. He is in stable condition at Hadley Hospital.
Pumphrey, along with officers Richard Watkins and Gerald Awkard, had arranged to purchase PCP as a part of a drug investigation, police said. Two of them were shot as they stepped from their car, and a third was shot as he ran to assist the wounded officers.
"The number of recent shooting dramatically illustrates what this kind of court ruling is doing," Hankins said. "That kind of action speaks much louder to drug dealers than anything police or community leaders say. And it makes a mockery of what they say."