Police impersonator shoots teen and staff member at DC youth facility awaiting trial

A man posed as a police officer to enter a DC “protected home” for youth awaiting trial, shooting a 16-year-old boy and an “innocent” staff member, police said Wednesday.

It was the first time such an attack had occurred in DC at such a location, the addresses of which are strictly confidential, authorities said.

The incident took place just before 3 p.m. Tuesday in the 6000 block of Clay Street in northeast DC, when a man wearing a vest emblazoned with “police” and a badge pretended to stand for a warrant at the facility, according to the Metropolitan Police Department.

“It’s not the right procedure for the way these things usually go, and the person who ran the facility told them that … it’s not the right way to do it,” Commander John Haines said. Wednesday during a press briefing.

But the suspect “kept asking questions about a certain individual” before quickly recognizing the teenager, pulling out a handgun and starting shooting, Mr Haines said.

“We believe he was absolutely trying to specifically target this individual,” he said. “Unfortunately, during the gunfire, an innocent person inside who worked there was also hit by gunfire.”

The suspect fled in a dark SUV and the victims were taken to hospital, where the teenager was in stable condition on Wednesday, Mr Haines said, adding he believed staff member William Patton, 42, a resident of Maryland, had been released.

The suspect remained at large on Thursday and a $10,000 reward is being offered for information leading to his arrest. When he reported to the residence, the suspect was wearing “a tactical vest, or what looked like a bulletproof vest”, as well as “some sort of star-shaped badge” around his neck and a “police-type crest”. said Mr. Haines.

“We don’t know exactly what it was, but we believe it…could have come from another jurisdiction,” he added.

The scene of the shooting was described as a “protected residential placement for young people who are convicted or awaiting trial” during the briefing by Hilary Cairns, director of the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services.

The locations of these facilities are carefully protected, residents are supervised and safety protocols are in place.

Ms Cairns said she was ‘super concerned’ and the investigation was ongoing.

“It’s the first time something like this has happened,” she said.

It was the second time in less than a week, however, that crimes were committed by suspects posing as law enforcement.

On December 14, four men wearing tactical gear and carrying guns and a crowbar forced their way into a Bay Street residence in southeast DC, telling the occupants they were from the FBI – before escape with loot including a black safe, $3,300 in cash, a silver Audi Q3 sedan, and a Rolex watch worth $12,000.

Police said on Wednesday that no link had been established between the two crimes, and Mr Haines stressed that they were isolated incidents.

“One thing I want to emphasize: in this case, the public as a whole is not in danger,” he said on Wednesday. “Based on these two incidents of which we are aware, these individuals were specifically targeted either themselves or these places. It’s not like a general crime, or… where people should be afraid of being picked up by someone who’s a fake policeman and trying to hurt them. These people were targeted for other reasons specifically,”

He conceded, however, that law enforcement impersonation “worries me”.

“It can make our job a bit more difficult at times,” he said. “If people have ever been questioned about a police officer, whether they’re valid, whether they’re real or not, usually police officers… First, they very rarely work alone. So if we’re approaching a house, if there’s a traffic stop…especially here in town, it’ll be a marked police car.

He added that officers always carry ID and reminded the public to politely ask to see it, as well as check out what authentic uniforms look like.

“If you see things that don’t look right, the other thing you can do is call 911,” he said. “Say, ‘Listen, I’ve got someone here posing as a police officer. I’m just trying to check whether or not.

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