A D.C. police sergeant who fatally shot a man is heard on body-camera video yelling “gun” several times just before firing in a park last week in Northwest Washington, but the footage does not show what threat, if any, prompted the deadly force.
“I know Mr. [Hargraves]-Shird was running, and I know the officer fired,” D.C. Police Chief Robert J. Contee III said during a news conference after the video was made public Friday. He said it would be premature “to draw any conclusions beyond that based on the video.”
The sergeant, a 17-year veteran identified as Reinaldo Otero-Camacho, has not made a statement to investigators, as is his right during the criminal review of the case, according to D.C. officials. He is on administrative leave.
Hargraves-Shird’s sister, Serena Hargraves, disputed several statements Contee and Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) made Friday. She sat in the front row at the news conference and angrily confronted the city’s chief executive and law enforcement officer as news cameras rolled.
“That’s my brother,” the sister shouted at one point, interrupting Bowser to dispute statements that Hargraves-Shird had been armed and that the officer shouted “gun” several times before shooting.
“Don’t do that! Don’t do that!” she yelled. “None of that happened.”
She later told reporters that her brother was not a threat.
“Do you know how devastating it is to sit here and get video of them handcuffing my brother and he’s bleeding profusely from the head? You know how hard that is? And we can’t even mourn correctly because we are fighting the police, we’re fighting the media.”
When asked if the shooting appeared justified, Contee said Friday that the department was “nowhere near being able to make that determination.” He said prosecutors with the U.S. attorney’s office for D.C. are reviewing the case to determine whether criminal charges are warranted.
Contee and Bowser defended officers for pursing the vehicle that Hargraves-Shird was driving after the shooting of the two juveniles. The mayor added: “No matter the circumstances, any loss of life is tragic. Kevin was loved, and this is a traumatic loss for his family and friends.”
Efforts to reach Otero-Camacho on Friday were not successful, and it could not be determined if he had an attorney. Contee said he had not been involved in a previous shooting. In 2020, the officer was honored with a lifesaving medal after, while off-duty, he rescued a man from a burning vehicle.
Contee said the events leading up to the shooting began when two boys, ages 15 and 17, were shot about 4 p.m. on Longfellow Street near Georgia Avenue by people in two dark-colored vehicles. Police had previously described those victims as adults. Police said people on the street returned fire at the dark vehicles.
The drivers of the vehicles sped away, Contee said. The chief said a witness called police saying she saw a person with short hair and wearing a white shirt and dark pants run into an alley and hide a gun under a vehicle.
Officers found the gun under the vehicle, along with two other loaded firearms that had been modified to fire fully automatic, Contee said. An officer then spotted a man in a white shirt and chased him. The chief said that man got into the passenger-side seat of a white sedan, later identified as a Kia being driven by Hargraves-Shird.
Police broadcast a description of the white sedan, and Otero-Camacho saw the vehicle as he sped to the shooting on Longfellow Street, the chief said. The sergeant, Contee said, pursued the Kia for several blocks, including the wrong way on one street, to the 200 block of Madison Street NW, near Fort Slocum Park.
Security video from a resident also released by police Friday captured the Kia skidding to a halt and striking a curb along the park. Police said three people, including one who fit the description of the person seen hiding a gun under the vehicle back on Longfellow Street, ran from the Kia and into the park.
Police said Hargraves-Shird exited the Kia and ran into the park moments before Otero-Camacho pulled up behind the now-abandoned vehicle. Otero-Camacho’s body camera shows the sergeant removing his firearm with his right hand as he opens the driver’s side door.
Using the door as cover, Otero-Camacho shouts “Gun, gun, gun, gun, gun” and fires one shot, according to the video and police. The video shows the sergeant approach a man who is blurred on the video but whom police identified as Hargraves-Shird, lying face down in the grass. A dark object is to his left. Otero-Camacho speaks into his radio: “Shots fired. Shots fired. One man down. … We got a gun. We got a gun. We got a gun and a man down.”
The sergeant calls for an ambulance as two other officers handcuff the injured Hargraves-Shird; Contee said that is a practice by officers at a scene that they think might not yet be safe. Otero-Camacho then tells a dispatcher: “Got a weapon recovery. … Use of force. I fired my weapon.”
On the video released Friday, police drew a circle around the object lying to the left of Hargraves-Shird and labeled it “individual’s gun.” Police showed a still close-up photo of what they said was that firearm, a Taurus 9mm semiautomatic loaded with 18 bullets.
Hargraves-Shird’s sister said she believes the object was her brother’s cellphone. She said previously that the footage appeared to show that a gun was found some distance from her brother.
Hargraves said Friday that video she saw when the family privately viewed the recording earlier this week showed other officers around Hargraves-Shird, but no gun visible. Contee said by that time, the gun might have been removed.
Hargraves has said her brother was shot in the back of the head, while police said it was the side of his head. The sister has also said the sergeant never issued a command for her brother to stop and surrender. Contee said that type of command, while given in many cases, is not required by department policy, and police are allowed to fire anytime they reasonably think that they or someone else is threatened.
Contee said an officer shouting “gun” is typically meant as a warning to other officers or bystanders that there is a threat. He noted that there were people gathered nearby for an outing and that children were on a moon bounce to the left of where Hargraves-Shird ran.
“I don’t know if that warning was for them,” Contee said.
George Tobias, a 34-year-old former Marine, said he was at the gathering for friends moving out of the District. He said he heard the Kia hit the curb and focused on three men running through the park. He said parents rushed to move children off the moon bounce.
Tobias said he heard a single gunshot and got down on the ground. “When I got up to look,” he said, “that’s when I saw Kevin lying face down on the grass.” He said Hargraves-Shird collapsed about 25 feet from the moon bounce.
“It could have been a way worse scenario because of the proximity to all those kids,” Tobias said.
Later Friday, Hargraves attended a brief rally in front of the Wilson Building, and activists said they plan to return every week until the sergeant and a commander who shot a young man at the Wharf last month are fired.
“Neither one of these young men had their day in court,” said Nee Nee Taylor, a co-conductor for Harriet’s Wildest Dreams, a Black-led mutual aid and community defense organization.
Ellie Silverman contributed to this report.