For five days, Gregory Marcus Gray’s family searched for the 33-year-old, whom they hadn’t seen since just before Christmas. He hadn’t visited his mother, as was his habit. He wasn’t with the mother of his 4-year-old son. Worried, relatives called hospitals.
And when Gray’s brother, Gary, saw on the news that D.C. police had fatally shot a man on Christmas Eve and identified him as Raymond Robinson, family members were relieved. They knew Gray had previous run-ins with police. But Gray’s mother remained concerned, so she filed a missing persons report on Monday.
Later that day, D.C. police found Gary Gray and told him that they had misidentified the man they had fatally shot. He wasn’t Raymond Robinson. He was Gregory Marcus Gray.
The turn of events has led a family with ties to the District and Southern Maryland to wonder not only how Gray died at the hands of police but how authorities bungled his identification and took days to realize the error.
“I’m confused,” said the 36-year-old brother. “I don’t know what to think, to be honest with you.”
On Monday, D.C. police sent out a statement correcting the name but offering no explanation. On Tuesday, police said only: “Proper protocol was not followed in the identification process. The department is investigating how this occurred so that it does not happen again.”
Gray’s uncle, Thomas G. Wright, 55, said police told relatives that someone at the hospital thought he recognized the man as Robinson, 29. He said the two men look similar. Robinson’s mother told WRC (Channel 4) that detectives knocked on her door at 2 a.m. on Christmas Day to tell her that her son had died. She told the station that Robinson called her later that day, and she then told the medical examiner’s office that she did not need to identify anyone.
But word didn’t immediately get back to police, who sent out a news release with Robinson’s name on it at 2 p.m. on Dec. 26. It’s unclear when police realized the mistake. Wright said his nephew was then identified through fingerprints.
Gray was the first of two people shot by D.C. police officers on Dec. 24 but the only one who died.
Police said Gray robbed two men at gunpoint at a bus stop in Southeast on Wednesday afternoon, and he matched the description given to officers who saw him a few minutes later and gave chase. Officers cornered him in a grassy cut between apartment buildings off Naylor Road and fired on him after they say he turned and shot at them. One witness said he heard at least 18 shots. Police said they recovered Gray’s gun from the scene.
But a 61-year-old woman who lives in an apartment overlooking the scene, and was interviewed by police, said she saw officers repeatedly fire on Gray. The woman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she feared retribution, said she saw Gray stop when he got to the fence. She said she did not see Gray with a weapon, something she said she told police. “I guess he realized he couldn’t get out,” she said. “He turned, and as soon as he turned, police opened fire. I didn’t see no gun. . . . I didn’t see him point a gun.”
D.C. police have declined to discuss the investigation, but they have said repeatedly that Gray was armed and fired on the officers. One of the robbery victims said the gunman stood about 5-feet-8 and had dreadlocks, which relatives said describes Gray but also many other people in that neighborhood. The victim also said the robber had a North Face jacket and jeans and had stolen $18. Police would not say what Gray was wearing when he was shot or whether they found the $18 taken in the robbery.
Wright said he wants to know whether authorities found gunshot residue on his nephew’s hands. “That’s the first thing I would want to know,” he said. “It’s something they’re not willing to tell us now, because it’s an ongoing investigation, but there are certainly questions I want answers to.”
Wright said his nephew had a criminal record: He described drug arrests in Charles County and a recent conviction for selling marijuana, for which Gray was to begin a two-year prison sentence next week. Court records show no arrests for violent crimes.
“He wasn’t a bad person,” Wright said. “If he did what he did, he had to own up to it. When I heard what happened in the District, I never thought it was him. I didn’t know he knew D.C. or was in D.C.”
Wright said he last saw Gray on Thanksgiving. “He wasn’t a coward,” Wright said. “He didn’t run away. One thing I don’t understand. For him to turn around, he may have wanted to run, but once he’s caught, he gives up. He’s been incarcerated. It’s not something he’s afraid to do. For him to fire on police officers, it doesn’t make any sense.”