Police in the nation’s capital on Thursday released body camera footage from the officer who fatally shot a Black teenager a day earlier, leading to protests outside Mayor Muriel Bowser’s home and a police station.
Deon Kay, 18, was shot in the chest Wednesday afternoon in the midst of a foot pursuit with police officers.
Early Thursday morning, the local Black Lives Matter affiliate tweeted that the “Terror Gang has once again taken the life of a young man,” and demanded the immediate release of the footage.
The video shows a brief and chaotic scene. As a police car pulls into the parking lot of a southeast Washington apartment complex, the officer jumps out and begins chasing someone. The officer turns around, sees Kay running a few feet behind him and fires a single shot into Kay’s chest.
Police identified that officer as Alexander Alvarez, who joined the department in 2018. He has been placed on administrative leave.
The police video later freezes the frame and circles what appears to be a pistol in Kay’s hand. But it’s unclear whether Kay, who had officers in front and back of him, was intending to use the weapon or throw it away.
Immediately after the shooting, as other officers tend to Kay, the officer who fired the shot begins frantically looking for Kay’s gun in the surrounding grass. The handgun was found about 98 feet away, a distance that Metropolitan Police Department chief Peter Newsham said “does seem like a long way to throw a weapon.”
“Everyone can go and look at the video for themselves,” Newsham said. “You can stop it frame by frame and make your own determination. We will do the same when we conduct our investigation.”
The incident drew a harsh condemnation from the American Civil Liberties Union, which blamed the MPD for an overly confrontational approach that creates dangerous and violent situations.
“The D.C. police department’s approach to gun recovery has been dangerous and ineffective for years,” said Monica Hopkins, head of the ACLU’s District of Columbia office. “The tragic shooting and death of 18-year-old Deon Kay is the logical conclusion of a policy that not only meets violence with violence, but actually escalates and incites it — especially in our Black communities.”
Hopkins called for an overhaul of D.C.’s approach to guns on the streets to “focus on non-police solutions that address the underlying roots of community violence instead of continuing aggressive police tactics.”
The shooting occurred at a time of nationwide protests over police killings of Black people and calls for sweeping changes in policing.
Bowser said her administration had rushed to release the video “to help the public answer some questions. What I know is that our officer was trying to take guns off the street and what I know is that he encountered somebody with a gun.”
Authorities did not release the video from other officers on the scene.
NYK DAILY was seeking to locate Kay’s family for comment.
Emergency legislation passed by the D.C. Council in June requires the police to release any body camera footage from any fatal shootings or use-of-force incidents within five days. Newsham said his department worked overnight to make the footage public well ahead of that deadline,
“One of the reasons we put it out as quickly as we did is because there’s a lot of misinformation in the current climate that we have — not only in Washington D.C., but across the country. Misinformation can lead to some disturbances in our city and that’s the last thing we want to see,” Newsham said.
Newsham described Kay as a “validated gang member” who had multiple run-ins with local law enforcement, although the chief he refused to got into specifics. He said officers were drawn to the area by a video posted on social media that showed two young Black men, one wearing a mask, showing off handguns inside a car.
“They knew Mr. Kay when they saw the livestream. They knew him by name,” Newsham said. “I know that he’s a validated gang member from the area and I know that he’s had multiple touches with the criminal justice system. … I’m pretty sure that Deon Kay fell through multiple safety nets before yesterday afternoon.”
The U.S. attorney’s office will conduct an independent review of the shooting.