A D.C. Superior Court jury yesterday awarded $75,000 to the family of a 19-year-old Southeast Washington man who was shot and killed in 1975 by a D.C. police officer who thought the man was committing a robbery.
According to testimony before Judge Fred McIntyre, Douglas Snow, of 3620 Horner Pl. SE, attended a neighbor's party on April 21, 1975. Snow was talking with friends on the sidewalk when off-duty Officer Peter Pressley saw him and believed he was committing an armed robbery.
Pressley, of the 7th District, testified he was driving down Upsal Street SE shortly after 1 a.m. when he saw Snow standing in front of another man, Charles Ramsey, holding what appeared to be a silver-colored revolver.
Several witnesses who were near Snow at the time testified that Snow was not holding anything in either hand at the time Pressley stopped his car, got out and said sometime about an arrest. They said Pressley was in plainclothes, did not display a badge and did not identify himself as a policeman.Pressley testified that he did call out that he was an officer and produced his badge in the chase that ensued.
According to witnesses for both sides, Pressley chased Snow through an alley. The officer testified that at one point, Snow stopped running and turned to him. Pressley said he dived to the ground because he thought Snow was attempting to fire at him.
Witnesses for the Snow family testified that Snow stumbled during the chase and was shot once in the chest by Pressley when he attempted to stand up.
Pressley testified, however, that Snow was shot during a scuffle between the two in which the officer said Snow attempted to take his service revolver.
Attorney Edward Bou, who presented the Snows' case, argued that Pressley used unreasonable force in attempting to make the arrest and was not justified in the use of his revolver.
Assistant Corporation Counsel J. Edward Agee contended that Pressley clearly identified himself as a policeman at the time he arrived at the scene.
Agee argued that Snow had no legal right to resist arrest and had contributed to his fatal injury by struggling with Pressley and causing the officier's revolver to fire.
The District government was the defendant in the case.