District of Columbia policeman Curtis Hill was incorrectly identified in a story in Sunday's Washington Post as the officer who shot and wounded a 16-year-old youth. The officer who fired the shot was Rufus Archer, Hill's partner.
A 16-year-old youth was shot and critically wounded late Friday night by a District of Columbia police office who thought the BB pistol that the youth had in his hand was a real gun, police said.
The shooting occurred in an alley behind the 1300 block of Wallach Place NW, where witnesses said Maurice Lucas, a ninth grader at Lincoln Junior High, was about to shoot out a street light with the BB gun - which bears a striking resemblance to a .45 caliber pistol - when two plainclothes policemen on foot patrol spotted him and ordered him to freeze.
Police spokesman Lt. Donald Sprowls said Lucas ignored the order and pointed the pistol at officers Rufus Archer, 24, and Curtis Hill, 27, Hill then fired one shot from his service revolver, striking the youth in the side, Sprowls said.
Neighborhood witnesses said Lucas had simply turned towards the officers to show them the BB pistol and was in mid-sentence explaining that it was a not a real gun when he was shot.
"It was a cold thing to watch," said Carlton Green, a 28-year-old Southeast Washington resident, who said he was standing in the alley when the shooting occurred.
"Everything happened just like that . . . real fast," he said snapping his finger. "Then this little dude is sprawled out in the alley crying for his daddy and this cop comes over and steps on his wrist, to keep him from going for the gun. I couldn't sleep last night thinking about it," Green said.
Lt. Sprowls said a preliminary investigation into the shooting "shows that the officers were only performing their duty." He said the officers thought the gun was real.
Daniel Jarvis, 16, said he and Lucas were leaning against a wall in the alley at midnight Friday, "looking for something to do," when three smaller boys walked past, one of whom was carrying the BB gun.
"Boomer (Lucas' street name) took the gun from them and headed over to the street light. And I was trying to get the gun from him, when out of nowhere somebody said, 'freeze',"he recalled.
The gun was designed by Marksman Products of Torrance, Calif. to look like a black steel, .45 caliber, Army issue automatic. The advertisment for the gun shows a small boy and his father huddled around the gun, aiming at a target. The caption says, "Precision," value and fun for the family."
The gun is made of cast aluminum and fires 22 BBs with one loading.
Jarvis, who lives across the street from Lucas, said several youths in the neighbourhood have similar guns, many of which were purchased from Green's Wall Paper and Paint Store a few blocks away at 14th and P streets NW.
"We stopped selling those things about a year ago because they were a nuisance," said Sofronia Beam, a cashier at Green's. "But we just got a new shipment in two days ago."
Beam said the toy guns are not sold to persons under 21, but that adults regularly purchased them for children in the neighbourhood.
"It just ain't fair, it just ain't," said Richard Lucas, Maurice's father, wringing his hands."I didn't see it, but they said it was a boy. A BB gun. How could they do this to my boy over a BB gun?" he asked.
Officers Archer and Hill, both black, have been with the police department for three and four years, respectively. They are assigned to the city's 3rd Police District plainclothes crime prevention section with primary objectives to "observe and be visible," Lt. Sprowls said.
The area the men patrol is near the heart of the city's red light district, where prostitution and drug abuse are the most common crimes, police said.
Even as the Lucases mourned the injury of Maurice, who remains in stable but critical condition at Children's Hospital, women in brief clothing walking on stilted shoes descended from nearby row houses to the trunks of Cadillacs parked along the streets. The women took out changes of hot pants and halter tops and rushed back inside the houses.
A rescue squad from the D.C. Fire Department screeched to a halt in front of the Lucas home at one point yesterday and the driver called out, "Any OD's (drug overdoses) around here?"
"Good Lord, it's getting tougher and tougher," said Richard Lucas, a dry wall cleaner who has lived in Washington for 20 years.
"I keep telling you, daddy, it's time for us to move outta here," said Caesar Lucas, 22, the oldest of Lucas' three sons.
With tears in his eyes, Lucas looked at his boy."You don't understand, son. How hard I worked to build this house. So you all, you and your mama and your brothers would have something if I passed."
"But those notes," Caesar Lucas interrupted. "Fifty, sixty grand" he said, referring to messages that real estate agents have left under the door with the latest asking price underlined in red.
"They're trying to buy us out," Lucas said tightlipped.
"Man, we could move and really have something other than this old barn, and having cops on us all the time," Caesar said.
"We got something now, boy. We got pride. Just because we live in the red light district don't mean we have to be like junkies and pimps, and it sure don't mean we got to be treated like 'em."
"I'm not leaving," Lucas said, his fist now clinched around his empty belt loops on both sides of his pants. "Not until I'm dead," he said.