The U.S. Park Police officer who fatally shot a 17-year-old on Saturday after getting into a car with him was wearing a body camera, according to police, but it is unclear whether the public will ever see that footage.
Police officer who shot D.C. teen had a body cam. Will footage be released?
The Park Police referred the request for footage to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) office, which, for the National Park Service, had an average processing time of 127 days for simple requests in 2022, according to the FOIA website.
The incident, which unfolded around 9:30 a.m. on the 300 block of 36th Street NE, began when D.C. police received a call about a suspicious vehicle and officers found the car parked with the engine running and a driver inside who appeared to be asleep or nodding off. The officers called for backup after they ran the tags and determined the vehicle was stolen, according to a D.C. police spokesperson.
Two Park Police officers responded to that call, approached the car, and one of them got into the back seat, said Park Police spokesman Thomas Twiname. At that point, the driver, later identified as Dalaneo Martin, appeared to wake up and hit the accelerator.
Twiname said an officer was “trapped in the vehicle” and gave commands to stop before discharging a firearm, striking the 17-year-old. The vehicle then crashed into a house, and Martin was pronounced dead on the scene.
A D.C. police spokesman and the chairman of the Park Police union both said a weapon was recovered from the vehicle. D.C. police are investigating the incident.
The shooting has sparked questions from the media, community activities and experts about whether the Park Police officer followed proper protocol when he entered the parked vehicle. A community activist at the scene that day demanded to know why “police officers [are] getting inside of a vehicle,” and the mother of the slain teen yelled at officers, “You’re supposed to protect us!”
Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, said he is “not familiar with any training that would have [an officer] get in the back seat unless there is some compelling reason.” He added, “We need more information.”
Kenneth Spencer, chairman of the U.S. Park Police Fraternal Order of Police, defended the officer’s actions.
“We are confident that both officers did act appropriately during this incident,” he said.
Spencer said that “there was a lawful reason” for the officer to be in the back seat, and that he believes the agency should and will release the body-cam footage. “As the union, we’ve been fighting to get these cameras for years and we are happy we have them,” he said. “I am all for the camera footage being released.”
Martin’s family did not respond to requests for an interview.
Park Police officers are newly equipped with body-worn cameras in Washington. The department implemented the cameras in late 2022, about five years after two Park Police officers pursued then fatally shot an unarmed motorist in Northern Virginia. The incident brought into focus the federal department’s lack of cameras.
In the District, a package of police accountability measures, passed as temporary legislation in 2020, requires D.C. police to make body-camera footage public within five business days of an incident involving a serious use of force — with consent from the surviving victim or, if that person is deceased, their relatives. D.C. police have been routinely releasing such footage for years, but that legislation is set to expire March 25, and House Republicans have moved to block it from becoming law.
GOP members have argued the legislation is “anti-police,” while supporters have said it is important for holding police accountable for misconduct.
The congressional decision around that legislation, however, would not directly apply in the case of Martin’s death because the officer who fired was with Park Police, a federal entity.
Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said at an unrelated news conference Monday that she would review the shooting incident more closely but had not seen the Park Police footage. “We will get to the bottom of what happened, whether it’s our department or the other one,” she said.
Tom Jackman, Keith L. Alexander, Laura Meckler and Ellie Silverman contributed to this report.
Source: Washington Post
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