More than six eyewitnesses have positively identified Bruce Wazon Griffith as the man who fatally shot D.C. police officer Arthur P. Snyder at 14th and U streets NW last week, District police said yesterday.
Police also said yesterday that the handgun used to shoot Snyder was the same model as one found on Griffith's body after his fatal shootout with three D.C. policemen three days later. But police said the bullets taken from Snyder's body were too "mutilated" to be positively identified in ballistics tests.
That information, along with findings that Griffith shot first during his gun battle with police, has been sent to a D.C. Superior Court grand jury to determine whether Griffith shot Snyder and whether police were justified in shooting him.
In an interview with a reporter yesterday, Capt. Charles Samarra, head of the District's homicide squad, and detective Robert Chaney, who is investigating the shooting, said they are convinced, based on witnesses' testimony, that Griffith shot Snyder and that it was premeditated.
Friends of Griffith's dispute this, however, some saying that a man behind Griffith fired the shots that killed Snyder, others saying that Griffith was not in the area at the time of the shooting.
At witness' statement, contained in the warrant issued for Griffith's arrest before he was shot, said that "shortly before the shooting . . . the witness was on 14th Street in the 2000 block along with a male subject known to the witness as Elroy Jones (or) 'Reds.'
"At approxmately 6:40 p.m., the witness became aware that Officer Snyder was walking behind them.Elroy Jones told the witness, prior to officer Snyder approaching them, that if anything happened to move to his right -- that everything to his left was getting wasted."
When Snyder approached the two, the witness said, "Elroy turned, pulled a pistol from his pocket and shot Officer Snyder. Office Snyder fell to the ground and Elroy stood over him and shot him in the chest and face."
The affidavit states that the witness then viewed nine pictures and postively identified a picture of Bruce Griffith, whom he called "Jones," as the person who shot Snyder.
Samarra said there were five other witnesses who said they were at the scene of the shooting and positively identified Griffith as the man who shot Snyder after seeing Griffith's photograph.
Samarra also said that the gun used in both cases was a Smith and Wesson small-barreled, five-shot pistol, based on tests of gunpowder marks on Snyder's clothes and on the empty cartridges found at the scenes of both shootings.
Ballistics experts could not postively identify the bullets, however, because they were too battered.
Though many of Griffith's associates say they think he was never allowed by police to turn himself in alive, Samarra said police had tried to let Griffith know that he could give himself up safely.
"We asked him to surrender, we began to find relatives, friends and associates. We told them of the seriousness of the crime. We asked for their assistance in apprehending him and we asked that he surrender," said Chaney.
Samarra and Chaney said that at no time did police receive a call from Griffith or one of his acquaintances indicating that Griffith wanted to surrender.
Samarra also asserted that when police spotted Griffith in a cab and followed him to the 2200 block of First Street N.W, Griffith was given the chance to surrender.
"Griffith had three chances to surrender," said Samarra. "One when the uniform [squad] car stopped the cab and the policeman in uniform approached him. Then the two other policemen in plainclothes, but with their badges showing, also approached and he was aksed to put his hands up and get out and [Griffith] started shooting. The policemen then returned the fire."
Samarra said that during the exchange, police fired 19 shots, Griffith, seven. An autopsy of Griffith's body showed he was hit six times.
Samarra said that by studying the way in which the rear window of the cab was shattered, police technicians have determined that Griffith shot first and that his fire was then returned by police.