A knife-wielding woman was shot by a D.C. police officer near the scene of a fire Saturday evening in Northeast Washington, D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said. Lanier said the woman was taken to a hospital, where she was reported to be in stable condition.
Lanier said the woman was armed with “multiple knives” and refused commands to drop them when police encountered her in the 5300 block of Clay Terrace NE. Video shows her advancing toward an officer.
A police statement issued later referred only to one knife.
Exactly what prompted the confrontation, which occurred about 6 p.m., remained unclear.
“We don’t really know what’s behind this,” Lanier said.
She said no rigid rules determine an officer’s response in such circumstances.
“There is no policy that dictates every individual officer’s perception and every individual officer’s actions,” she said. “It is something we train officers to handle based on what the situation is.” She also said that when “someone charges an officer with a knife, we have to deal with it the way that we do.”
A brief video posted online shows an officer, arms extended, pointing a pistol at a woman in a pink baseball-style hat.
She appears to be about 8 to 10 feet away, advancing sporadically and unsteadily toward him. He backs up.
Urgent cries are heard, apparently from bystanders.“Put the knife DOWN!” one shouts. “Put it DOWN!” A man in a T-shirt stands nearby, waving his arms downward in an apparent effort to get the woman to drop the knife.
In the video, the woman’s hands are not readily visible. She appears to continue moving forward, and a single pop is heard, along with screams. The image swirls, and the video ends. A different video shows the woman still on her feet after the shot.
A police spokesman said late Saturday that he understood the woman to be conscious and breathing.
Police and firefighters were sent to Clay Terrace after a fire was reported, Lanier said. On the way, she said, officers were told of someone there with a knife. They found a woman holding “multiple knives,” Lanier said.
In interviews, two witnesses said that when police encountered the woman, she had a knife, which they described as relatively small.
One witness, Gerald McBrayer, said she held “a little steak knife” and received no warning. Another witness, Nathan Strickland, said the woman had a steak knife with what he described as a “skinny,” 6-to-8-inch blade.
A fire department spokesman said the cause of the fire on Clay Terrace was under investigation. It was not clear what connection, if any, the woman had with it.
Lanier said she understood videos had been made and asked that police be given access to them.