Jordan White was in a rush in the predawn hours of Aug. 25, so she kept driving, passing the flashing ambulance lights and the group of police officers surrounding a stopped car. Her 8-year-old twin daughters were in the back seat, but White couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t right. She had to go back.

She made a U-turn, pulled out her phone and went live on Instagram.

“He won’t get out the car,” White, 30, says in the video while parked in the middle of Florida Avenue NE. “They about to shoot they ass.”

Three minutes and 55 seconds into her video — at 3:08 a.m. — an officer fires 10 shots at the car as it speeds away, striking 27-year-old An’Twan Gilmore. At the sound of bullets, White drops her phone. “Oh, my God!” she says over and over again. The video went viral.

In a flash at that moment, White thought of Darnella Frazier’s cellphone footage of George Floyd’s murder and the ways bystander videos showing police using deadly force can bring accountability for officers and justice for victims and their families. She felt compelled to document whatever was happening, knowing from living in and around the District how quickly encounters with police can escalate, especially for Black people.

Now she, too, has joined this corps of traumatized citizens who have stopped to film police killing a friend, a relative, a stranger — thrusting instances of officer use of deadly force into public view and influencing people across the country who watch these videos on their cellphones.

It has been nearly two weeks since White trusted her instincts and started to film, and she can’t stop thinking about it. When she sits down in her quiet apartment and closes her eyes, she can still hear the gunfire.

Others who recorded police using deadly force have talked about the trauma it inflicts upon them, the sleepless nights, the panic attacks, the overwhelming feeling of being in danger. A childhood friend has been sleeping over in White’s two-bedroom apartment, afraid to leave her alone. Now, White said she wants to register to own a gun.

White soon learned that when she pulled up to the scene, Gilmore remained in his car because he was unresponsive, asleep or unconscious, authorities and official reports have alternatively described.

Police said officers who arrived on scene saw a gun in Gilmore’s waistband as he was unresponsive in the driver’s seat, but it’s unclear if he ever removed it during the encounter or threatened officers. Gilmore’s family is pressing for answers about what happened.

D.C. police released body-camera footage of the incident — a view that was obstructed by the firing officer’s ballistic shield, making it difficult to see inside the car. But when paired with White’s video from further away, those watching can see a fuller picture of what happened, the way police surrounded the car and the sounds of gunshots as the officer opened fire, fatally striking Gilmore as he drove away.

On Aug. 25, 2021, D.C. police fatally shot An’Twan Gilmore. Police said officers responded to a vehicle with a report of a driver unconscious behind the wheel. (The Washington Post)

Police have not said what happened inside the car when police knocked on the window and Gilmore stirred awake.

They do not know why Sgt. Enis Jevric, who has been on the force nearly 14 years, fired his weapon. Jevric did not give a statement to detectives, as is his right while prosecutors review the shooting, and officials said he is on administrative leave. The police chief has described shooting at Gilmore’s car as inconsistent with policies that generally prohibit firing at moving vehicles.

White’s video documented the second shooting by D.C. police in about nine hours, sparking protests, demands to fire all officers who were present when Gilmore was fatally shot and more calls to overhaul policing. Since then, there have been two more fatal officer shootings.

White said she believes Gilmore never should have been shot. She felt connected to him as she witnessed his last moments. Though he was a stranger, she has since learned they had mutual friends.

She is reminded of her own police interactions, how they could have gone differently, and memories of the men in her life who were killed in the streets or incarcerated, like her father, and taken away from their families.

She’s been thinking of all of the families she knows who endured relatives’ killings, all the mothers she has heard crying, losing a piece of themselves with their child’s death. Too often Black women, a grandmother, mother, aunt, sister, cousin, she said, are burdened with carrying a family through tragedy. She doesn’t want that to happen to her girls.

She and her daughters joined protesters marching at Black Lives Matter Plaza last summer calling for racial justice and to defund the police. She has asked her daughters to write letters to Gilmore to express how they feel and to design shirts to wear to his funeral.

White has always wanted to help those affected by gun and police violence, but it has been a struggle to first provide for herself and her daughters as a single mother. Witnessing this violence, she said, has changed her.

Now, she lies awake wondering: “Is there more I can do?”

The decision

Her best friend had called in the middle of the night, crying that her nephew had just died of covid-19. She wanted to know if White could come over and comfort her.

It was about 2 a.m., but White didn’t hesitate. She grabbed her daughters, telling them that “Auntie Moni” needed their help. Her daughter Korri Pippin quickly fell asleep in the back seat, but Khloe Pippin was awake as they approached the throng of officers.

White thought the large police presence meant this was the end of a high-speed chase, that the man inside the car stopped at a traffic signal at New York and Florida avenues NE was someone officers had been searching for all night.

The police lights lit up the dark sky as White’s video showed several officers standing behind the stopped car and aiming flashlights inside. One officer with a shield slowly approached the side door. She could see they were knocking on the window, and she didn’t want to leave.

Police were responding to a complaint about a blue BMW stopped in a travel lane at an intersection, where the driver appeared to be sleeping. An ambulance was also dispatched. But less than 10 minutes later — at 2:55 a.m. — an officer called for help because “the person is armed in the vehicle,” according to a summary provided by the District’s 911 center.

Police said officers saw a gun in Gilmore’s waistband when they first saw him unresponsive in the driver’s seat.

Her videos show the officers shuffling around the car. “They won’t get out the car!” White can be heard saying in the video to someone who pulled up beside her. There were now about eight officers seen in her video. She was afraid that if she drove by, she could be hit by a bullet.

“Why he just won’t get out the car?” she asked. Soon, the car appeared to jerk forward and stop. “Oh, my God!”

Three seconds later the car moved forward again, and she heard three gunshots. As the car sped off, more gunshots followed. White dropped her phone, startled by the rapid gunfire.

Cars honked in the background as White stayed in her car, confused and startled by what she just witnessed. “They beeping at me. I’m not going!” White screams in the video. “They just killed this man!”

Soon, she would learn that man was Gilmore, someone who a relative said was a practical joker, was planning to take a nephew to football practice the next day and suffered from medical issues that caused seizures but that he did not have a specific diagnosis. Officials said Gilmore’s gun was still in his waistband when he was found in the car after the shooting.

White didn’t know what to do next. She thought: When something bad happens, you call the police for help. But who do you call when the police do something bad? She said her hands were shaking too hard to dial on her phone.

She kept recording as she drove away. “Kids,” she asks, “did y’all see that?”

A start

At first, they rarely talked about it.

The twins played in their bedroom filled with purple hearts drawn on the walls, sheets from the movie “The Descendants” and a poster of YouTube star JoJo Siwa. They think what they saw is a “secret,” something to keep hidden and unspoken.

White often pulls out her “to do” Notes app list, to track what she needs for her family: “two pairs of shoes,” “book bags,” “Stay dc application” for the city’s emergency rent-relief program. This is part of her normal routine, though nothing right now feels normal. She’s consumed with thoughts of Gilmore, what the shooting means for her family and what else she should do to help. Several spaces down, she jotted down her dreams: “lost female friends to violence and boyfriends to the system and I want to start a program for females in the City.”

But she wasn’t sure where to begin.

She does not have any money of her own to put toward creating a program. She said she was laid off from her job during the pandemic as a contractor working as an administrative assistant in the United States Department of Agriculture, and she lives in Cleveland Park near Washington National Cathedral in a two-bedroom apartment she can only afford through a Section 8 housing voucher. She has her own cleaning business but is nervous about going into people’s houses and possibly bringing the coronavirus home to her unvaccinated, young daughters.

Shortly after the incident, White said, the twins had asked: “Why would the police shoot them?” White didn’t know the answer.

The sense of helplessness she felt after the shooting is not something she wants to feel again.

She has been scrolling through Instagram, seeing how activists have organized around Gilmore’s death and learning from them. She wishes she had a million dollars to buy a home, paint it pink and welcome all women who need a place to sleep and eat or access resources like job training and résumé guides.

A small step, she thinks, may be talking more about Gilmore, supporting his relatives and teaching her daughters that they are important and their lives are valuable. On a recent day, she called her daughters into the kitchen, took out her phone and pulled up #AnTwanGilmore on Instagram.

“These are the pictures right here,” White said, turning her phone to face her daughters. “You’re going to pick one for our shirts, okay?”

“Okay,” they said as their mom scrolled through Instagram. “I want to use this one,” Khloe said, pointing at a photo of Gilmore sitting down, resting his elbows on his knees and staring off to the side. White explained she would have these photos printed on T-shirts they could wear to his funeral.

Then White placed two composition notebooks in front of the girls and asked them to write a letter as if they were sending it to Gilmore. Korri smushed her chin into a pink plushie while Khloe fidgeted with a pen, both girls concentrating on the lined page in front of them.

“Dear Antwan,” Korri wrote inside her notebook. “I love you Inside and out.” She then drew herself crying in front of a casket labeled with “R.I.P.” In the sky, she drew clouds with rain pouring down.

“You want to say anything to the police?” White asked. “How do you feel about them?”

“Mad,” Khloe said softly, looking back at her mom who was trying not to cry.

White has tried to shield her daughters from the violence she saw as a child growing up in and near the District, but she knows this wasn’t the first time they’ve heard gunshots or known someone who was killed.

Even on this recent day, White was wearing a shirt with the faces of three young people who were killed, including Makiyah Wilson, who was just 10 years old when she was fatally shot in the summer of 2018 as she went to an ice cream truck in Northeast Washington.

The girls know those stories and others like them. Last summer, White saw Khloe watching YouTube and holding up one hand in a fist. “What are you doing?” White recalled asking. Khloe replied: “I’m protesting!”

White had reached more people than ever before with her one video of the fatal police shooting of Gilmore, and she feels spurred to action to help her community. She wants it to be safer for herself, her children and for all Black people in the District. Maybe, she now thinks, she doesn’t need a ton of money to start making a difference.

“What do you want your shirt to say, Khloe?” White asked her daughter, referring to the T-shirt they were designing for Gilmore’s funeral.

“Black Lives Matter,” she said.