After arriving, officers were approached by the off-duty officer, who said he had seen “what he thought was a car being broken into,” Takoma Park officials said in a news release.
“He engaged the suspects who failed to follow his direction,” the officials said. “The suspects attempted to flee in a vehicle at which time the officer discharged his service weapon.”
A short time later, two people arrived at Prince George’s Hospital Center with gunshot wounds. Both died at the hospital, police said.
No arrests have been reported.
Officials said the off-duty officer encountered at least three people in the parking lot. The officials would not say whether they had interviewed those in the parking lot who weren’t shot.
Officials are expected to identify the two shooting victims once their family members have been notified.
Cathy Plevy, a Takoma Park police spokeswoman, said many questions remain under investigation. She would not say whether the officer fired his weapon as the two were getting into their car or as the car was driving way. She also would not say whether the officer perceived a threat or whether the pair were armed. She would not confirm that the officer’s bullets hit the two or say whether someone else could have shot them after the encounter with the officer.
Takoma Park detectives are investigating whether anyone else in the parking lot was armed or fired shots, Plevy said.
Police Chief Antonio DeVaul declined to answer questions about the incident.
Chris Layman, a spokesman for the Pentagon Force Protection Agency, said he could not comment on the officer’s current status or any other details regarding the case.
Katie Stauss, a member of the Silver Spring Justice Coalition, said the group is calling for the release of 911 calls and police radio communications in the case.
The group, which has been pushing for police reform in Montgomery County, is also asking for the release of any video footage from Takoma Park officers who were called to the scene.
“The police information is insufficient and not transparent. . . . If there is more information, it should be shared immediately, including all officer communications, and body and dashcam footage, when they arrived on-scene after the shooting,” Stauss said.
Council President Tom Hucker (D-District 5), whose district covers Takoma Park, said local police and the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office are investigating.
“Unfortunately this is only the most recent of far too many tragic shootings in our area,” Hucker said. “In general, we want our residents to call 911 rather than using deadly force on their own in response to activity they believe is suspicious.”
The incident in Takoma Park marked the second time in a matter of weeks that an off-duty member of the Pentagon Force Protection Agency fired their weapon.
On March 24, authorities said, a Pentagon officer shot and wounded a 16-year-old who the officer said tried to rob him on Mississippi Avenue in the Congress Heights neighborhood of Southeast Washington.
According to D.C. police, the officer, who was not identified, told investigators that the youth pointed a gun at him. The officer tried to grab it but was unsuccessful, and then pulled his own gun and fired at least one shot, according to his account.
The teen was charged as a juvenile with assault with intent to commit an armed robbery.
With so few details known about the incident in Takoma Park, it’s unclear how the case will play out. One key question: Was there a risk to the officer at the time he fired?
“The law is pretty clear that officers can’t discharge a weapon when there’s not a threat to an individual or to public safety,” said longtime Maryland defense attorney David Felsen, who is not involved in the case. “As a general rule, fleeing is not a threat to an individual or to public safety.”
Felsen stressed that depending on what happened, the facts could go in favor of the off-duty officer.
“If the people in the car were backing up at him, that’s different,” Felsen said. “If they were driving away and shooting a gun at him, that’s different.”
Rebecca Tan contributed to this report.