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Retired D.C. police lieutenant charged in shooting of library officer

The fatal shooting occurred at a training session at a library branch in Southeast Washington

D.C. Police Chief Robert J. Contee III discusses the fatal shooting of library officer Maurica Manyan at the Anacostia Neighborhood Library on Thursday. (Clarence Williams/The Washington Post)

A retired D.C. police lieutenant has been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the fatal shooting of a library officer during a training exercise Thursday, an incident witnesses say could have stemmed from a joke gone tragically wrong.

A D.C. police spokesman, Dustin Sternbeck, identified the retired lieutenant as Jesse Porter, 58, who left the force in November 2020.

He is accused of fatally shooting Maurica Manyan, 25, of Indian Head, Md. Her relatives could not be reached.

A D.C. police officer who responded to the scene said she saw Porter performing CPR on Manyan and heard him say something like: “I thought I had my training gun. Why did I do this? Is she okay?” according to the charging documents.

Porter appeared in court Friday wearing a white, plastic forensic investigations jumpsuit and navy blue high-top Converse sneakers. He was released from custody until trial a move prosecutors did not oppose — and ordered not to possess any weapons and to turn over any personal firearms to police.

His preliminary hearing is scheduled for Aug. 24. His attorney declined to comment.

Porter was contracted by the Anacostia neighborhood library to provide training for some of its officers on the use of extendible batons, according to police and court records. He runs a private company called Porter Consulting and Expert Tactical Training, online records show. Websites describe Porter as a “use of force consultant” and a “de-escalation and crisis intervention instructor.”

D.C. Police Chief Robert J. Contee III said that it was unclear why a live firearm was involved in the training — and the charging document does not explain why Porter brought such a weapon there. Contee said that “it is not good practice to do that.”

The shooting occurred in a training room in the lower level of the Anacostia Neighborhood Library, located in the 1800 block of Good Hope Road SE, around 3:30 p.m. Thursday.

It was the end of a day-long training, and the group of library police officers and trainers posed for a class picture, according to charging documents. The room was still arranged for the session, with chairs and tables pushed to the side and pieces of law enforcement equipment spread across the room — including brightly colored plastic training handguns that do not fire. Police have said about six people were in the room at the time, including Porter, Manyan and several other library police officers.

At that point, witnesses interviewed in the charging documents said, Manyan told the class she wasn’t ready for the picture because she was still wearing her mask to protect against the coronavirus, according to the charging documents. The group began laughing at her, according to the documents, because she had “been having hair issues all day.” Video footage, which has not been released but was referenced in the charging documents, showed Manyan removing her mask and placing it down by her side.

Porter then exclaimed something like, “Ah, here we go again,” according to a witness; he walked out of the picture line, picked up his handgun, and turned and shot Manyan in the chest, according to the charging documents. Witnesses described hearing a loud boom and then watching the 25-year-old collapse on the floor.

Officers who reviewed the video footage said that Porter performed CPR on Manyan and “appeared distraught and very remorseful,” according to the charging documents. One library police officer said Porter looked at them as D.C. police were escorting him out of the building and said: “I’m sorry. I shot your officer.” Multiple witnesses told police that Porter seemed to be joking around with Manyan when he fired his gun.

One witness, who has known Porter for about a year, said the retired lieutenant is often “playful as to not make the training dry,” according to the charging documents. That person described an interaction before lunch a day earlier, when Porter had pointed an orange training firearm at Manyan and “simulated shooting her” after she “made a funny comment.”

A D.C. police officer employed by Porter’s firm and in the training room that day said Porter had his training weapon in his holster throughout the session and had probably just switched it for his live firearm because they were getting ready to leave.

“He does not play with live ammunition and live weapons, and it is not in his character,” the officer said, according to the charging documents.

Manyan was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Porter declined interviews with detectives, according to the charging documents.

“It’s a very tragic situation that we are dealing with here,” Contee said. He added Friday that witness interviews and video footage informed the decision to criminally charge Porter.

Two weeks ago, Porter was interviewed on NewsNation about the San Bernardino, Calif. police officer who shot and killed a 23-year-old as he ran away.

“That’s one of the things I always tell officers when I teach them. There is always a video out there,” Porter said. “That’s one reason why I tell police officials, you have to be careful when you make a public statement, because there are always going to be more videos that are going to pop up later during the investigation.”

In court Friday, Porter only spoke his name and said “yes” when the judge asked if he understood the conditions of his release. He is required to check in with pretrial officials weekly by phone.

An involuntary manslaughter charge suggests the killing was reckless but unintended.

The D.C. Public Library is an independent city agency that has its own police department. Its officers, who are licensed to be armed, are responsible for public safety at library locations, said library system spokesman George Williams.

Razzan Nakhlawi contributed to this report.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Indian Head, Md., is in Prince George’s County. It is in Charles County.