The D.C. police officer who authorities said fatally shot a man Saturday night along the city’s bustling waterfront promenade is a newly promoted commander who was off-duty and leaving dinner at a restaurant when he saw a man pointing a gun, according to four officials familiar with the investigation.
Those officials said Cmdr. Jason Bagshaw, a 20-year veteran who became a recognizable and sometimes controversial presence at demonstrations throughout the city over the past three years, ordered the man to drop the weapon and fired at least twice when the man did not comply.
The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said police are investigating the possibility that Bagshaw interrupted an armed robbery. Bagshaw was not in uniform at the time, according to police and a video showing the aftermath of the shooting.
The shooting, which occurred shortly after 9 p.m. in the 800 block of Wharf Street SW, sent people running for cover along a string of restaurants and clubs in one of the District’s newly minted and upscale nightlife areas known as the Wharf. Coming amid a rise in homicides and just a month after a 15-year-old was fatally shot during an event on U Street, the incident renewed fears about safety for some in the city, particularly at popular social hubs.
Police did not officially identify Bagshaw on Sunday; D.C. law allows them five business days to identify officers involved in serious use-of-force cases and make videos from their body-worn cameras public.
Police identified the man who was killed as Lazarus David Wilson, 23, from Dumfries, Va. Police said he had come to the Wharf with another Virginia man and got into a confrontation with a group of young men from the District. A relative of Wilson’s said she would pass along a reporter’s contact information to the man’s mother; efforts to reach others were not successful. Police said a man with the group from D.C. was grazed by a bullet.
Three officials familiar with the investigation said one person involved told police that the dispute was over the sale of watches, but those officials cautioned that account could not be confirmed. Two of the officials said police found a bag containing $30,000 with the man who died.
Police said they are trying to sort out what happened. The officials said it appears Wilson and the other man met up with the men from the District, and some sort of dispute or altercation occurred as they walked along the waterfront street.
D.C. Police Chief Robert J. Contee III said a video from a security camera shows “an armed individual pointing a gun.” In a statement issued Sunday, police said Bagshaw and the other officer — who officials later identified as Bagshaw’s wife — “voiced a command for the suspect to drop the firearm and the suspect did not comply.” It was not immediately clear if Wilson pointed the gun at officers. It also could not be determined if Bagshaw identified himself as an officer.
No criminal charges have been filed in the case.
As with all D.C. police officers involved in a shooting, Bagshaw has been put on administrative leave, authorities said. He was promoted in April to run the Special Operations Division, overseeing tactical officers, civil-disturbance units, domestic security, traffic safety and special events, which includes planning and handling large-scale demonstrations.
He has received numerous awards from the department. But he also has been singled out by activist groups who questioned his conduct handling demonstrations, particularly those involving racial justice after the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis. Bagshaw is seen in many videos engaging and confronting demonstrators.
Efforts to reach Bagshaw by telephone Sunday were not successful, and he did not respond to an email sent to his department account. A police spokesman confirmed that Bagshaw received the messages and said that he did not wish to speak publicly.
D.C. police on Sunday issued a statement that included a photo of a semiautomatic handgun they said Wilson had been holding, along with an image they said shows Wilson holding the weapon in his outstretched hand.
Bagshaw was not wearing a body camera. Police said they are reviewing video from responding officers and security cameras.
Videos posted on social media showed a frantic massing of police, while bystanders scattered to get out of the way. Some expressed concern about safety on social media.
D.C. Council member Charles Allen (D), who represents Ward 6, which includes the waterfront, noted shootings in other prominent areas outside Washington, including gunfire last month inside a Tysons Corner mall and a recent fatal shooting near Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and baseball stadium.
Allen, who chairs a council committee that performs oversight on the D.C. police, said gun violence is a problem in cities and suburbia, driven by the “easy access to guns and conflicts that turn deadly at the drop of a hat.”
Allen said that “there was a life lost last night” at the Wharf, and “that is a tragedy.” But. he said, “I would take my family to the Wharf tomorrow to enjoy the water and the restaurants. I feel confident doing that.”
Harriet’s Wildest Dreams, a racial justice group led by Black women, posted a video on Instagram showing the immediate aftermath of the shooting. The video shows a man in dark pants and a white shirt on his knees, putting his hands up as a uniformed officer closes in.
A man on the video can be heard saying, “I just witnessed somebody die.”
Nee Nee Taylor, the co-conductor of Harriet’s Wildest Dreams, said the man who took the video and reportedly saw the shooting did not want to be identified. Police officials confirmed the video shows Bagshaw after he shot Wilson.
A woman also is seen on video on top of another man; police officials said that is Bagshaw’s wife, who they said tackled one of the people involved in the incident.
The Harriet’s Wildest Dreams group demanded on Instagram that any video of the shooting be immediately made public. “Accountability is vital concerning this Police killing,” the Instagram post says.
D.C. police have shot four people this year, killing two of them. In addition, a U.S. Secret Service agent fatally shot another man, and a Metro Transit officer shot and wounded a man.
Marissa J. Lang contributed to this report.