A D.C. police officer early Wednesday fatally shot an armed man after he was found “unresponsive” behind the wheel of a running vehicle in the travel lane of a Northeast Washington street, then awoke and pulled away from responding officers, authorities said.
In a statement late Wednesday, police said the man had a gun in his waistband and his foot on the brake pedal of a running car. Police said the man stirred when approached by police and his vehicle moved forward. They said officers ordered the man to stop the car and he did briefly, but then drove forward again. Police said at that point an officer opened fire, striking the man.
Investigators identified the driver as 27-year-old Antwan Gilmore of Capitol Heights, the statement said. Police said a gun was found in his car.
Two members of the D.C. Council pressed police to quickly determine whether the officer’s actions were necessary, while activists took to social media to denounce the police response.
The fatal shooting was the second time in nine hours that a D.C. police officer shot a man. On Tuesday, police said a man in Southeast Washington fired at an officer who returned fire, wounding the man. D.C. police have shot nine people this year, three of them fatally. They shot six people in 2020, killing two.
Earlier Wednesday, when police officials gave their initial account of the fatal incident, D.C. Police Chief Robert J. Contee III said the first responding officer found the man and then retreated to get help and a shield to protect himself. He and other officers approached the vehicle about 20 minutes later. The chief said the man woke up and the shooting occurred moments later.
Contee told reporters the shield partially blocked the view of the officer’s body camera, making it difficult to determine precisely what occurred as the officer and the man interacted. He said investigators planned to view body-camera videos from other officers who also responded in hopes of getting a better view. The officer who fired has been placed on administrative leave during the inquiry.
A video taken through the windshield of a vehicle across the street and posted on Instagram shows at least six officers near the driver’s side of the vehicle, which has its headlights on.
After several minutes, the officers, including at least one holding a shield, move closer to the vehicle. At one point, the vehicle lurches forward and officers crowd in closer. It then appears that the operator starts to drive away, and several shots are heard. The video does not show what happened inside the man’s sedan.
Police said the sedan traveled several blocks to New York Avenue and North Capitol Street, where it struck a tree. Police said Gilmore was taken to a hospital, where he died.
Authorities have not said how many shots were fired. Police must release the body-camera video and the officer’s identity within five business days of the incident.
D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) urged Contee to “move aggressively to prove whether this use of force was indeed justified.”
In a statement, he said little is known about the circumstances of the shooting and “it would be inappropriate to either defend or condemn the police at this time.”
But, he said, “lethal force should rarely be used, and every measure must be taken to avoid fatal force. Successful policing requires community trust. That trust rises or falls on whether our communities feel protected or threatened by the police. ”
Council member Janeese Lewis George (D-Ward 4) drew comparisons to last week’s arrest of a man near the Capitol who sat in a truck for hours and claimed to have a bomb. He surrendered to authorities after negotiations.
George tweeted on Wednesday: “Sitting here trying to figure out how law enforcement can successfully de-escalate a white domestic terrorist in a truck threatening to blow up the Capitol with a bomb but not a Black man who fell asleep in his car?”
The earlier shooting by police occurred about 6 p.m. Tuesday, when police said an officer confronted a man he believed was involved in the possible use of drugs in the 1700 block of Minnesota Avenue SE.
After investigating and sending the man on his way, the officer saw an indication that he might have been carrying a gun and tried to engage him, Contee said Tuesday.
The chief said the man pulled a gun from his clothing and brandished it. A police spokesman said the man fired at the officer. The spokesman said the officer returned fire, striking the man, who suffered injuries that police said did not appear to be life-threatening.
Asked about the two shootings by officers within about nine hours, Contee told reporters, “It’s unfortunate that we have to come face-to-face with armed gunmen in our community.” He added, “It’s not a situation we want to find ourselves in.”
Dana Hedgpeth and Martin Weil contributed to this report.