At 4:30 a.m. Monday, Steven Douglass stood in downtown Washington and shouted into a bullhorn.
Douglass acknowledged that the noise from the small band of protesters around him was disturbing neighbors, but he unapologetically declared his intent: to wake up the city to demand answers in the fatal shooting of motorcyclist Terrence Sterling by D.C. police.
This demonstration at Third and M streets NW was among a few small efforts in past weeks to seek transparency into the investigation of the killing at the intersection during a confrontation early on Sept. 11.
Sterling, 31, of Fort Washington, Md., was shot by an officer after police said he intentionally drove his motorcycle into a police cruiser. Police have said they were called because the motorcycle was being driven erratically but released few other details.
At the Monday protest, scheduled to begin around the time Sterling was shot, people held signs that read, “Justice for Terrence Sterling.” They chanted: “We have questions. We need answers.”
Officials have said the officer who shot Sterling should have turned on his body camera at the start of the pursuit but did not do so until after he fired. Police have updated their policy, and officers now are required to confirm with dispatchers that the cameras are on when they respond to calls.
The two officers involved in the incident — the shooter and the driver — have not been publicly identified. They are on administrative leave. No video of the incident has been released.
D.C. police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck on Monday said the department is “committed to a fair and thorough investigative process.” He also noted that recruits, as well as veteran officers, are being trained to use body cameras.
Monday’s demonstration followed a Friday night ride by about 175 motorcyclists, who traveled from Maryland into the District to urge leaders to release more information.
“We want to know why the cameras weren’t activated. We want to know what was the threat. We want to know, are we next?” yelled Self Justice, a New Jersey rider.
Justice urged the group to keep Sterling’s name “in the atmosphere,” because “Terrence Sterling was a good dude who didn’t deserve to get shot,” he said.
Jason Downs, an attorney representing the Sterling family, said family members “appreciate the community support” and were seeking a “transparent investigation.”
“If the officer is innocent, then the community needs to know and the family deserves to know. But if the officer committed some form of wrongdoing or broke protocol, the community and the family deserves to know,” said Downs, an attorney with Murphy, Falcon & Murphy, the firm that represented the family of Baltimore’s Freddie Gray.
At a vigil honoring Sterling days after his death, friends lifted their hands in a biker’s salute. Some, using Sterling’s nickname, called out to the 31-year-old as if he were standing with them.
“KFC! KFC baby!”
Sam Brown, 40, had been a friend of Sterling’s for almost eight years. He said one of Sterling’s first jobs was working at the fast food restaurant for which he was later nicknamed. It was his neighborhood name, and it stuck.
The first time Brown heard people call his friend by his birth name was this month, days after he was killed.
“The pain kicked in immediately, and I just want to know what happened,” Brown said of the shooting.
At the Monday demonstration, another organizer, Thomas Ruffin Jr., said the group had several demands, including the release of the names of the officers involved and the body camera video.
“We need justice for Terrence Sterling,” Douglass said. “We can’t let this slip under the rug.”
Keith L. Alexander and Dana Hedgpeth contributed to this report.