The D.C. police department and the Guatemalan Embassy are trying to contact the family of a man shot and killed by a police officer Tuesday after he allegedly lunged toward the officer with a broken beer bottle he had been using to cut himself.
Xicara Julio Ceasar Pascual, 29, is believed to have been in the United States without family, according to police, who spoke with embassy officials and the Immigration and Naturalization Service yesterday. He emigrated from Guatemala at least seven years ago.
"We are trying to reach out to everyone we can to get in touch with his family in Guatemala," Detective Brett Smith said.
Latino activists and D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) protested the shooting yesterday just steps from where Ceasar Pascual was shot four times in daylight in the 2600 block of 13th Street NW, behind Cardozo High School.
"Couldn't the man have been subdued instead of killed?" asked Roberto Javier Frisancho, president of the Latino Civil Rights Center. "Was it necessary to shoot the man four times? Would the outcome have been different had the man been a stockbroker wearing a suit?"
Frisancho said the shooting reminded him of the incident that sparked disturbances in Mount Pleasant in 1991, when an officer shot an unarmed Salvadoran man who was being arrested for disorderly conduct. Others expressed concern that Ceasar Pascual may not have understood the command, in English, to drop the bottle.
"The way the police responded to this was like something out of a Western or a Halloween movie," said Arnoldo Ramos, executive director of the Council of Latino Agencies. "There could have been a better way."
Police said the incident began about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, when Officer Michael Harvey responded to a report of a man cutting himself. When Harvey arrived, police said, Ceasar Pascual was holding a bottle and bleeding. The officer told him to drop it, but Ceasar Pascual refused. Police say that when Harvey fired two shots at him, Ceasar Pascual grunted and lunged forward, coming within about 10 feet of him. Harvey then fired two more times.
Cmdr. Jose Acosta, commander of the 3rd District, who was at yesterday's demonstration, said Ceasar Pascual was trying to hurt himself but later became a threat. He said Harvey, who has been on the force for 14 years, does not speak Spanish. About 40 officers on the 3rd District's police staff of 340 speak Spanish, he said.
Executive Assistant Chief Terrance W. Gainer defended the shooting, saying Harvey appears to have followed procedures and "was left without any alternatives. . . . Based on our visit to the scene, it appears to be within our policy."
District police say they follow national training guidelines, which advise officers to stay 21 feet from a suspect wielding a knife or other object because to be closer endangers officers' safety. D.C. police also receive some training in dealing with the mentally ill, but some officers and mental health advocates say more training is needed.
"Almost everybody would agree that the police get an inadequate amount of training with dealing with persons of mental illness," said Paul Appelbaum, who chairs the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. "They are often not sensitive. The mentally ill are not criminals. They are not in general trying to commit a crime or hurt the police."
Police are asking anyone with information on Ceasar Pascual's family or the shooting to call 202-673-6815.
CAPTION: Xicara Julio Ceasar Pascual was shot after failing to drop a broken bottle.
CAPTION: Arnoldo Ramos, head of the Council of Latino Agencies, speaks at a rally protesting a shooting by a D.C. police officer. At left are D.C. Council member Jim Graham and Roberto Javier Frisancho, president of the Latino Civil Rights Center.