Two D.C. police officers have been suspended amid allegations they failed to help a group of people who complained about threats from a man facing eviction from a home in Southeast Washington, law enforcement officials said.
One person told police at a station house that the man had lifted his shirt to show off a gun and angrily told others, “If I can’t live here, can’t nobody live here.”
Hours after officers refused requests to escort the group back to the house on July 30, turning them away from the 6th District police station, a man who tried to help the group was fatally shot outside the home, according to the court papers.
Police on Wednesday arrested Mark Tee Price, 23, of Southeast, and charged him with first-degree murder while armed. Authorities are also looking for a second person who they say also fired. Police allege in court documents that Price had made the initial threats.
The victim, Andre Hakim Young, was a 47-year-old sound engineer and volunteer football coach who lived in Maryland and who relatives said had gone to the house to mediate a dispute.
“My brother was going to help someone in need, and it cost him his life,” said Young’s younger sibling, Warren Lewis, who lives outside Philadelphia. “I’m angry. [Police] didn’t follow protocol. . . . Why would police send people back to a scene of violence? That doesn’t make any sense to me.”
At Price’s initial hearing Thursday in D.C. Superior Court, his attorney, Pierce Y. Suen, with the Public Defender Service, argued that one of the prime witnesses provided police with contradictory information and that his client may have acted in self-defense. Police found a black knife with an open blade at the scene but did not say who it belonged to.
“There is obviously more to this story, your honor,” Suen said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Gilead Light argued Price had bragged to witnesses that he was “the reason the murder rate in D.C. was high.” Light said Price was enraged that he was being evicted from the house at the time of the shooting. The prosecutor said that at the time of the shooting, Price was under court supervision for an armed carjacking in Prince George’s County.
The judge ordered Price detained until his next hearing Aug. 17.
Dustin Sternbeck, the D.C. police department’s chief spokesman, confirmed an officer and a detective had their arrest powers revoked in connection with the handling of the residents’ complaint. He said the officers were placed on non-contact status.
Sternbeck said officers have discretion when it comes to accompanying residents who request help and authorities are trying to determine if the officers erred in their judgment.
Sternbeck declined to comment further, citing the ongoing investigation, which is being conducted by the officers’ superiors.
Fox 5 News first reported the officers’ suspensions.
The affidavit filed in connection with Price’s arrest says that at some point on July 30, five people went to the 6th District police station to get help. Young was not among them.
Police say in the affidavit that at first, the people told an officer over the intercom that they wanted a restraining order, without mentioning the threat or the weapon. The officer told them they could only get that at the courthouse, and he directed them there. Someone in the group then dialed 911 to report the alleged threats, and the group was allowed into the station.
The people then recounted the threats and the gun, police said in the affidavit, and were interviewed collectively and independently. They said Price and his girlfriend had been staying at the apartment for two days, and they had invited other guests as well.
Trying to evict them proved difficult, according to the affidavit, including when one person locked herself in a bathroom. The affidavit does not say why officers refused to escort the group, including a woman who wanted to retrieve personal items, back to the house.
The homicide detective did write, though, that “after being interviewed, a request to be escorted back to the apartment by law enforcement was submitted and ultimately denied.” Young then escorted the woman into the house. While inside, police said Price pulled up to the house in a silver BMW.
Police said Young was shot moments after he stepped outside.