LESS THAN 24 hours after a young Black man was fatally shot by a D.C. police officer in Southeast Washington, officials on Thursday made public the body-camera footage of the deadly encounter. It shows uniformed officers arriving on the scene and, within moments, one of the them firing a single shot into the chest of Deon Kay, who had turned while holding a gun with his right hand. The video provides key information, and its commendable quick release was crucial for a community rightfully wanting to know exactly what happened to cause the death of this 18-year-old. Still unanswered, though, is the critical question of whether the shooting was justified. It is important that there be a thorough investigation.

In releasing video of the incident Wednesday afternoon in Congress Heights, officials stressed that the investigation of the shooting — which will be conducted by the police department’s use-of-force review board and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia — is just beginning. “We are in the infancy stages of an investigation,” said D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham at a news conference. “All we have is some statements and a video. There is a lot of work yet to be done before we come up with any conclusions.” Police need to take additional witness statements, complete forensics and determine whether there is additional video footage that should be analyzed.

What is known so far: Police say officers in the 7th District had seen live-stream video on social media of Mr. Kay, who was known to police, and others brandishing weapons inside a vehicle. They tracked the vehicle to a parking lot outside an apartment complex in Southeast. Police began to chase one of the occupants, who escaped, and then encountered Mr. Kay with a gun in his hand. The officer who shot him, identified by officials as Alexander Alvarez, is seen on the video searching for and finding the gun believed to have been wielded — but tossed away at some point — by Mr. Kay.

The video moves fast, and things happen in a matter of seconds. Is it possible Mr. Kay was trying to throw the weapon away before he was shot? “The video has been put out so that everyone can go and look at the video for themselves,” Chief Newsham said when asked that question. “ You can stop it frame by frame and make your own determination. We will do the same when we conduct our investigation.”

The deaths of George Floyd and other Black people have underscored the need to hold police accountable for their use of deadly force. But anyone watching the video must also acknowledge the challenge officers faced in this case. Officer Alvarez did not have the benefit of being able to freeze and rewind before making a life-and-death, split-second decision.

There must be no rush to judgment by either defenders or critics of police. We urge the U.S. attorney’s office, which has a history of taking an unnecessarily long time to investigate police shootings, to show urgency in reviewing the circumstances of this one.

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