A D.C. Superior Court grand jury has decided to bring no charges against three District police officers who last month shot and killed Bruce Wazon Griffith, the suspected murderer of a D.C. police officer.
The grand jury's decision not to bring an indictment against the officers was based on its belief that Griffith's death was "justifiable homicide," according to one Superior Court source. The officers had said they shot Griffith in self defense.
A 23-member grand jury made up predominantly of blacks, listened to a series of government witnesses recently, then decided that no indictment should be brought against Officers Robert L. Lanham, 31; Adrian James, 26, and John Bonaccorsy, 24, who killed Griffith in a shootout Feb. 14.
The U.S. attorney's office told D.C. Police Chief Burtell M. Jefferson by memorandum yesterday that the grand jury would not file charges against three officers, who are assigned to the Fifth District.
Despite the widespread publicity surrounding the murder of Officer Arthur P. Snyder Feb. 11 at 14th and U streets NW, and the subsequent shooting of Griffith, the court chose not to make a public announcement of the grand jury's findings.
The grand jury did not address the question of whether Griffity was the man who killed Snyder because Griffith is dead and there are no other suspects in the case, sources said yesterday.
The three police officers two whites and a black, have been on administrative leaved with pay -- in accordance with routing department policy -- since the shootout with Griffith. The three officers were returned to their regular duty yesterday, a policeman said.
Griffith, 29, a small-time black drug dealer, was shot to death during a gun battle with the three officers after he leaped from a taxi on a quiet residential street near Howard University.
Officers James and Lanham, cruising the streets in search of Griffith, spotted him getting into a cab at First and S Streets, NW. They sent out a radio call for help, then followed the taxi in their unmarked car.
Minutes later, Bonaccorsy arrived in a police cruiser and, with his roof lights flashing, tried to stop the cab. At that point, the driver slowed his taxi nearly to a halt, jumped from the cab and ran for cover. Police said Griffith crouched in the back seat of the cab and began firing through the rear windows at the officers, who took cover and returned the fire. Griffith was struck by six policy bullets as, still firing, he attempted to run from the cab.
An ambulance rushed him to the Washington Hospital Center, where he died 50 minutes later, despite efforts to save his life.
Griffith's death ended a huge three-day manhunt that began after 3rd District Officers Snyder was shot trying to arrest a suspect on drug charges. The suspect was later identified by several witnesses as Griffith.
Snyder, who was white, was shot twice while trying to make the arrest. The first shot struck his bullet-proof vest and knocked him down; the second bullet was fired in his head as he lay on the sidewalk. He died several hours later at the Washington Hospital Center.
According to police, more than six witnesses positively identified Griffith as the man who shot Snyder. Police also have said that the handgun used to shoot Snyder ws the same model weapon as one found on Griffith's body after the Feb. 14 shootout.
Police have said that the bullets taken from Snyder's body were too "mutilated" to be positively identified in ballistic tests.