Correction: This story was updated on Dec. 29 after police said they misidentified the man they fatally shot on Christmas Eve. Police say Gregory Marcus Gray, 33, who has no fixed address, died in the shooting.
The 20-year-old man had just delivered a Christmas bouquet to his friend’s mother and was waiting for a bus home when a man approached him on Alabama Avenue, near the Good Hope Marketplace in Southeast Washington.
The assailant struck him over the head with a black handgun, then pointed the gun at his head and demanded money. The robber also took bags from the man and his friend.
That is how a D.C. police report and one of the victims describe a Christmas Eve robbery that netted $18 and led to officers chasing and fatally shooting a man who they said fit the robber’s description.
On Friday afternoon, police identified the man they killed as Gregory Marcus Gray, 33, who has no fixed address. A few hours later, about two dozen city residents held a vigil near the area of the shooting, a dead end at Erie Street and Naylor Road. Police have said that Gray shot at officers first and that they returned fire.
At a tree near the sidewalk, those at the vigil left a bouquet of lilies, votive candles, a teddy bear and a cardboard sign that said “rest in power.” The small crowd remained mostly quiet and peaceful. “We are here to make it clear that we are watching,” said D.C. resident Deborjha Blackwell, 66. “We are not going to stop paying attention.”
Gray was one of two men shot by D.C. officers Wednesday afternoon. The other shooting happened in Northeast Washington when officers tried to arrest a suspect in the armed carjacking of a FedEx truck. Police said that assailant also fired at officers, who returned fire. The man survived. In both cases, police said, weapons were recovered.
Those were the first shootings by D.C. police since the killings of unarmed men by police officers in Ferguson, Mo., and New York, which sparked nationwide protests. A week ago, a man saying he was seeking retribution fatally shot two New York police officers, further heightening tensions.
Gray was shot about 3 p.m. near the 2800 block of Naylor Road SE. Officers had been called to the area after the robbery, which occurred half a mile away.
A D.C. police report says that two men, 19 and 20, were at 30th Street and Alabama Avenue when they were approached by a man carrying a black pistol. The victim who was hit on the head gave the gunman $18, the report says, and both men handed over bags they were carrying. In the report, police said that the gunman put his pistol in the front right pocket of his jacket and walked toward an M&T Bank branch on Alabama Avenue.
The man who was struck declined to comment beyond saying, “I’m too shaken to talk about it.” His friend confirmed the account. Both men, worried about their safety, requested that they not be identified. One victim said he described the assailant to police, saying that he had dreadlocks and facial hair and was wearing a North Face jacket, jeans and sneakers.
D.C. police would not comment beyond what Cmdr. David Taylor told reporters Wednesday, saying that officers saw a man matching the description given by the robbery victims. Taylor said the man was followed to a dead end, which is blocked by a gate, and he turned and fired at three officers. Police fired back, striking the suspect. One of the robbery victims said that neither he nor his friend saw the shooting.
None of those at Friday’s vigil had witnessed the shooting, but they were suspicious of the narrative that police have disseminated. “We came to investigate,” said Princess Black of the activist group Think MOOR (Movements of Organized Revolutionaries). “It’s our job to hold police accountable in our communities.”
Lawrence Rutledge, 83, came out from his apartment to talk to the group. From his second-floor window, Rutledge said, he saw the aftermath of the shooting and Gray on his back. He counted 18 shots.
“You don’t have to shoot a man that many times to stop him,” Rutledge said.
Community activist Reggie Betts said people want police to produce the gun and autopsy results to allay suspicions.
The second shooting by police occurred about 5:25 p.m. The FedEx driver told police that a man came up to his window and pointed a gun at him in the 1300 block of Adams Street NE. “Man, you know what time it is?” the driver said the gunman asked, according to the police report. “Then walk your [expletive] up the street.”
The gunman drove the van away, and the driver called police. A few minutes later, police said, officers chased the van into an alley off the 2200 block of 16th Street NE, and gunfire was exchanged.
Police identified the suspect as Andy Thompson, 22, of Northeast Washington and said he has been charged with armed carjacking and assault on a police officer while armed.
The police report does not describe the shooting. The FedEx driver declined to comment.