Soon after 14-year-old DeOnté Rawlings was shot in the head by an off-duty cop on Sept. 17, 2007, it was clear this case would require serious scrutiny. Too many pieces of the narrative didn’t add up. Outrage over the incident wasn’t just voiced by the usual police watchdogs; it lingered beyond the candlelight vigils and pulpit speechifying.
By now the basic facts are not in dispute. On the evening of the shooting, two off-duty D.C. officers—James Haskel and Anthony Clay—went looking for Haskel’s stolen minibike. After driving around for a bit, they creeped down an alley between 8th and Atlantic Avenue SE in the Highland Dwellings neighborhood.
It was there among the Dumpsters and rows of sagging backyard clothes lines that they spotted a boy riding the stolen bike. Haskel revved his champagne-colored Chevy Tahoe into reverse.
They then came face-to-face with the boy. Haskel and Clay did not introduce themselves as police officers. They did not brandish their badges. They did not get on their police radio for assistance.
The boy dropped the bike and then allegedly took out a pistol, firing off two rounds at the Tahoe. Haskel returned fire. The boy darted off, Haskel insists, while continuing to fire his weapon. Haskel got out of the Tahoe and soon got off several more shots—eight in total.
The two cops fled the scene. The minibike disappeared. The gun that the boy was supposed to have fired has not been recovered. No physical evidence has emerged corroborating Haskel’s story that the boy fired multiple shots as he ran from the alley.
The cops ran from their responsibilities to the dying boy. The U.S. Attorney’s Office, following a seven-month investigation, declined to prosecute Haskel and Clay. The following September, the D.C. Police Department cleared the two cops of wrongdoing as well. It continues to stonewall on releasing the full investigative record.
Law enforcement insists that the boy who stole the minibike and fired on those cops was the one Haskel shot in the back of the head. That’s where the official narrators would like to end this case. But the Rawlings family attorney, Gregory Lattimer, refuses to go along.
Lattimer took the case a few weeks after Rawlings’ funeral. He hasn’t stopped investigating since—poring over police records, interviewing witnesses in the neighborhood, and taking depositions. Police officials may have put the Rawlings file in storage. But Lattimer’s file is active and has turned out to be a significant archive of conflicting evidence and sloppy police work.
Lattimer still isn’t convinced that Rawlings was on that minibike and that he fired at the cops. Although he has a financial stake in proving his theory—he has filed a $100 million lawsuit in federal court—he continues to uncover evidence and talk openly about his findings, much to the dismay of Attorney General Peter Nickles. Attorneys representing the city recently requested in U.S. District Court that Lattimer be held in contempt for allegedly disclosing grand jury materials. The lawyer characterizes the move as frivolous and a crude attempt to get this case out of the headlines. “I’m not intimidated by them,” Lattimer says. “I’ll fight that battle every single day.”
Among the finds in the lawyer’s files:
• In the initial police account of the shooting, a detectives reported he arrived shortly after the incident and spotted a cluster of kids around a red minibike. He saw the kids pushing the bike away from the area. The detective did not know the minibike was important. After conferring with another official on the case, he immediately went back to the porch where he first saw the bike. He knocked on the door, and a kid he recognized answered and then promptly closed the door. It is unclear whether police ever followed up with this kid. Lattimer says there is no evidence police ever obtained a warrant for that home.
• In a deposition with the police officer who picked up Haskel and drove him away from the scene, the officer admitted that a dispatcher directed him to do so. He also admitted he might have been the first officer to arrive at the shooting. Instead of attending to Rawlings, his orders were to take care of Haskel.
• Perhaps most alarming is the discovery of Haskel’s minibike the day after the shooting. In a deposition taken in March of this year, Haskel’s friend Bobby E. McNair stated that he found the minibike and that a boy turned it over. When the boy got off the bike, a gun fell out of his pocket. McNair stated that he told police the same story. Lattimer says there is no mention of the gun in any police report.
Lattimer says he has interviewed close to a dozen witnesses who contend Rawlings was not on that minibike and did not shoot at the two cops. That night, he believes, Rawlings had visited a nearby rec center and then hung out with friends on a patch of grass a few feet from the incident. Rawlings, he believes, got caught in the crossfire trying to run away through a narrow cut between two housing units.
At this point in his investigation, Lattimer says he’s close to the most important detail of all—the real identity of the minibike thief. That person, he says, is not DeOnté Rawlings.
After all his investigative work, Lattimer is surprised that the U.S. Attorney’s Office stuck behind the faulty, official narrative and failed to file charges. “They know everything I know,” he says. “They know just what I know.”
Below, in their own words and under oath, several of the players in the shooting death of DeOnté Rawlings explain their histories and what happened. Lattimer conducted these depositions from fall 2008 through spring 2009.
The Personnel File
At the beginning of their depositions, Officers Anthony Clay and James Haskel were asked to provide their history with the D.C. Police Department. They had very little, if any, recent patrol experience.
Lattimer: How long have you been a police officer?
Clay: 21 years.
Lattimer: Where are you currently assigned?
Clay: The Police Training Academy.
Lattimer: When did you start with MPD?
Clay: Upon graduation, I was assigned to the first district substation, at which time I spent five years as a patrol officer. In ’92 I was transferred to the Police Academy and currently I’m at the Police Academy.…I’m a certified instructor, but I no longer teach a class.…I went to the Academy to be a – to work in the media production unit.
Lattimer: What is that, media production unit?
Clay: We make the training videos.
Lattimer: So did you ever teach any classes while you were at the Academy?
Clay: I assisted with the motorcycle class, the scooter class.
Lattimer: How are you employed, sir?
Haskel: By the Metropolitan Police Department.
Lattimer: How long have you been so employed?
Haskel: 23 years…
Lattimer: All right. And starting with your graduation from the Academy, where have your assignments been?
Haskel: Patrol in the first district, auto theft in the first district, assigned to information technology at headquarters and currently SOD, air support unit.
Lattimer: What are you doing with SOD air support?
Haskel: I’m the technical flight officer.
Lattimer: Does that mean you fly?
Haskel: No, I’m the officer that gives communications to the ground units…
Lattimer: Now, with SOD as a technical flight officer, do you still perform the duties of a patrol officer as well?
Haskel: I don’t understand your question.
Lattimer: In other words, are you in uniform?
Haskel: A flight suit.
Lattimer: A flight suit.
Lattimer: Now, before the SOD assignment, where were you?
Haskel: Information technology.
Lattimer: And what did you do there?
Haskel: Installed computers and helped people with logging on to the computer system with the Metropolitan Police Department.…
Before he shot Rawlings, Haskel, while off-duty, fired on two teenagers in separate incidents. Both shootings took place around a Chinese carryout on Southern Avenue SE. In one, he fired and missed. In another, he struck a 15-year-old three times in the back, the buttocks, and in the shoulder. Lattimer says in both cases, Haskel fired on his subject when they had their backs turned away.
In both cases, Haskel stated in his deposition that the teens had guns. In one incident, according police records, Lattimer says, Haskel claimed he was fired upon. Lattimer says the guns and shells casings were never found. Both shootings were ruled justified. During his deposition, Haskel was asked about the shootings.
Lattimer: Prior to Sept. 17, 2007, other than at the range, had you had to use your service weapon?
Lattimer: And when was that?
Haskel: You want the dates?
Lattimer: Yes. The best you can recall.
Haskel: I can’t recall dates at all.
Lattimer: Well, what’s the approximate dates? Well,
let’s do it this way. How many times did you use your service weapon?
Lattimer: Twice. OK. And when you used your weapon on the first time, when was that?
Haskel: February of ’04, ’05, I think.
Lattimer: And what—what reason did you use your weapon at that time?
Haskel: [W]itnessed a guy chasing someone shooting. As he was chasing the guy, I pulled my weapon, told him I was a police officer, he turned on me, I fired one round.
Lattimer: And did that round take effect?
Lattimer: So you told him you were a police officer?
Lattimer: Why was that?
Haskel: Why was that?
Haskel: Because I’m a police officer.…He was running away from me, and I got his attention by yelling police officer.
Lattimer: OK. Was it—was that man eventually captured?
Lattimer: By you or someone else?
Haskel: By someone else.
Lattimer: And when was the next time you used your weapon?
Haskel: Uncandidly in the same location.
Lattimer: 7th Avenue?
Haskel: Yes, 7th Avenue, I was at the restaurant there, and when I came out someone attempted to carjack me.
Lattimer: What happened?
Haskel: I was asked to surrender my keys and he told me to run off. I started to run, I turned and I fired
Lattimer: Did he have a weapon pointed at you;?
Haskel: Yes, in my back.
Lattimer: So he told you to leave and then you turned and started shooting at him?
Lattimer: How many times did you shoot?
Haskel: I don’t remember.
Lattimer: Did any of the rounds take effect?
Lattimer: How many?
Haskel: Three.…In the shoulder and the side…
Lattimer: So he wasn’t facing you at the time you shot him?
Lattimer: Was he running away?
Haskel: He was on the fence.
Lattimer: What do you mean?
Haskel: He was on a fence, he was climbing over a fence.…I was behind him.
Lattimer: You were chasing him?
Lattimer: How did the chase come about?
Haskel: OK. I fired, but none of the rounds took effect, the first couple rounds, so he ran off.
Lattimer: And as he was trying to climb over a fence, you shot him three times?
Haskel: As he turned to fire at me.
Lattimer: OK. Did he ever fire at you?
The Day of the Shooting: Police Respond to Haskel’s Home
Clay had just finished his day shift and was home in the Walter E. Washington Estates, where Haskel also lives. Haskel had the day off. He spent much of that day taking care of his newborn son. In the early evening, he drove him to Clinton, Md., for a swim lesson. A neighbor, whom Haskel remembers as “Fred,” called him on his cell phone with the bad news. Haskel had left his garage open and someone had stolen his minibike.
The neighbors called the police to report the robbery. By the time Haskel arrived back at his home, a police officer had pulled up.
The officer was from the Emergency Response Team and had heard the call over the radio.
Lattimer: All right. And when you got home, what happened?
Haskel: The neighbors were all out. There was an officer there.…The neighbors called about the burglary and 7D dispatched it. He heard the run dispatch and he responded…
Lattimer: You didn’t take down his name?
Haskel: Didn’t feel the need to.
Lattimer: I thought he was investigating the burglary?
Haskel: I said he responded.
Lattimer: OK, so what was he just doing, just standing around?
Haskel: Yes, basically when I got there, he was sitting in his cruiser.
Lattimer: So he just came there and just sit and looked around?
Haskel: If you want to know exactly what he done, you may have to get him here and ask him some questions…
Lattimer: So when you got there, did you have any communication with 7D?
Haskel: He told me that 7D had the call and would respond and was coming out to the call.
Lattimer: So he told you that 7D was coming out to the call.
Lattimer: Did you wait for them to get there?
Haskel: I was in the neighborhood, I just figured I’d just go out and see if I could find the minibike….
Lattimer: You weren’t going to wait for the police to come and take the report, right?
Haskel: Well, they were coming.
Lattimer: I know.
Lattimer: But you weren’t going to wait for them. Right?
Lattimer: And you sort of figured you had an idea where it might be, right?
Haskel: Kind of an idea.
Lattimer: But you didn’t tell none of the police about that, right?
Lattimer: Because you were going to go get it yourself. Correct?
Lattimer: Now, did you take your radio?
Haskel: Did I take my radio?
Lattimer: Did you take your badge?
Lattimer: Where was your badge?
Haskel: In my pocket.
The Search for the Minibike
Haskel had grown up in the neighborhood and stated in his deposition that he had an idea of where the minibike might have ended up. Clay got into the passenger seat with his police radio as well as his police-issued Glock. The two would eventually end up in the Highland Dwellings neighborhood a few blocks away from their homes.
Lattimer: Did you go alone?
Haskel: I started out alone.
Lattimer: You started out from your house alone?
Lattimer: And did that change?
Lattimer: How did that change?
Haskel: Officer Clay said he would go with me.
Lattimer: How did that happen? If you’re driving, how did Officer Clay say anything to you?
Haskel: When I’m driving out the lot where I live and he sees me leaving and he said, ‘hold on, I’ll go with you.’
Clay: Oh, like I say, I heard him talking to the neighbors. I was there with the neighbors. He wasn’t directly talking to me. I just—I can’t recall exactly what part, what got my attention, but I knew he was going to go look for his minibike.
Lattimer: So you decided to get in the truck with him?
Clay: I told him I’d ride along with him.
Clay: We’re both police officers. I’m a neighbor. I help out other neighbors if anything is needed.
Lattimer: What were you going to help him do?
Clay: You know, find it. Something that—something was taken from my house not too long ago. I figured we would ride around and find it.
Lattimer: OK. Did you know the police had been notified already?
Clay: No, I didn’t.
Lattimer: He didn’t tell you that?
Clay: No, he didn’t.
Lattimer: Nobody told you they called the police?
Lattimer: All right. Now, did you all discuss where you all were going?
Lattimer: Did you discuss what you were going to do?
Lattimer: Did you discuss any plan?
Lattimer: So you all just ride?
Lattimer: For what?
Clay: His minibike.
Lattimer: OK. And do you know what his minibike looked like?
Lattimer: So what are you looking for?
Clay: I’m just riding with him, waiting for him to
Lattimer: So if 50 minibikes ride by you, you wouldn’t have no idea whether it was his or not?
Lattimer: You’re just riding.
Lattimer: What route did you take to get to this alley?
Haskel: Came down Yuma Street, then turned left on to 8th Street and then made a right into the alley.
Lattimer: Yuma to 8th and then the alley.
Lattimer: And there’s some residential buildings there?
Haskel: Yes.…Like I said before, you see a lot of bikes being ridden in that area and I just figured I might have a chance that my bike was over there as well.
###NEXT PAGE:Spotting the Minibike###
Spotting the Minibike
The minibike was red with a white engine and emblazoned with the No. 2. Haskel had owned the bike for roughly 30 years.
Lattimer: So you turned down the alley. Where does this alley go to?
Haskel: You enter from the 8th Street and it goes all the way through and exits out on Atlantic Street.
Lattimer: So how many passes did you all make through the alley?
Lattimer: And were you driving slow, fast, what?
Haskel: About 15, I guess.
Lattimer: And so you’re heading west in the alley; is that right?
Lattimer: Towards Atlantic?
Haskel: Well, yes.
Lattimer: That’s where the alley empties out?
Lattimer: And at some point in the alley, you see your bike?
Lattimer: Approximately how far through the alley were you at that time?
Haskel: Just about all the way through. Just about all the way through the alley. I guess it would be the—just about all the way through. Almost.
Lattimer: So what, if anything, do you do at that point?
Haskel: I acknowledged that that’s the bike saying, “That’s it.”
Lattimer: At that point is the bike in front of you, behind you, to your left, to your right? Where is the bike?
Haskel: It’s in front of me.
Haskel: Not directly. Off to the right…
Lattimer: So then what happens?
Haskel: He rides by.
Lattimer: The person on the bike.
Lattimer: On which side?
Haskel: The passenger side.
Lattimer: So then what happens?
Haskel: I back up.
Lattimer: So you start backing up the Tahoe?
Lattimer: All right. And are you chasing him?
Haskel: Am I chasing him? I wouldn’t say chasing him, no.
Lattimer: But you’re trying to catch up with him.
Haskel: Catch up with him.
Lattimer: So he’s going away from where you’re going, so you put it in reverse—
Lattimer: And is he going 15, chugging along, or was he speeding away?
Haskel: He was just still riding the bike.
Lattimer: He doesn’t realize that you’re following him?
Haskel: I don’t think so.
Lattimer: OK. So then what happened?
Haskel: He goes to the other side of the alley, which would put him on my side.
Lattimer: The driver’s side.
Haskel: Yes, sir.
Here would have been the opportunity for Haskel and Clay to announce they are police. But they did not. Haskel did not attempt to make an arrest. His goal was to bring the minibike back home.
Haskel: I pull alongside of him and I told him to drop the bike.
Lattimer: You tell him to drop the bike. At that point do you say, “Police”?
Lattimer: At that point do you show your badge?
Lattimer: At that point do you identify yourself in any way?
Lattimer: OK. All you do is yell out the window to the person on the bike to drop the bike?
Lattimer: And then what happens?
Haskel: He dropped it.
Lattimer: So he—he at that point dropped the bike, and you do what?
Haskel: I stopped—my vehicle stopped, he dropped the bike, he got off and he said, “What, what?”
Lattimer: Did you tell Officer Clay radio 7D, tell them that we’ve located the bike?
Haskel: We located it, I figured it was located, I would just put it in the back of my truck and go home with it.
Lattimer: But I would assume that being a police officer you had to think that maybe the person on the bike had stolen it?
Haskel: It was possible.…I wasn’t concerned about an arrest. I just wanted to get the property back…
Lattimer: And then you at that point do what?
Haskel: I watch him.
Lattimer: Do you at that point say, “I’m the police?”
Lattimer: At that point do you pull out your badge?
The Gun Battle
Haskel and Clay both testified in their depositions that they were surprised by the boy’s reaction. Instead of merely walking away, the boy, they say, pulled out a gun. Later, they were not able to describe what the boy looked like other than that he wore a light-colored shirt and tan pants.
Early press accounts reported that the boy had a .45-caliber weapon. Officers had found .45-caliber shell casings in the area. But the casings proved to be too old and were not a match for the shooting. Haskel would tell a police official investigating the shooting that there were “some kids” out but that “people ran away” once the shooting started. He also recalled that the kid on the minibike may have had somebody with him.
Lattimer: He pulls a weapon out. What kind of weapon?
Haskel: I don’t know what kind of weapon, but it was a gun.…Can’t give you make or model
Lattimer: So you never told anybody that it was a .45?
Haskel: Me? No, sir.
Lattimer: And as you sit here today, you don’t know what kind of gun that was; is that right?
Lattimer: And then what happened?
Haskel: I pulled my weapon.
Lattimer: So you pull out your gun. And then what happens?
Haskel: He fired.
Lattimer: Was the gun pointed at the ground when he fires?
Lattimer: Where was it pointed?
Haskel: At me.
Lattimer: How many times did the person fire?
Haskel: Well, initially it seemed like one. I know he fired once and I fired back.
Lattimer: So you weren’t worried about being shot?
Haskel: Yes, I was.
Lattimer: But you didn’t duck?
Haskel: It happened too fast.
Lattimer: Now, was your vehicle struck?
Haskel: On the door, driver’s side.
Lattimer: It made an indentation?
Haskel: You say it’s my position?
Lattimer: All right. So after the person fired, what did the person do?
Haskel: Began to run.
Lattimer: So he began to run.
Lattimer: Where did he run to?
Haskel: Ran in an easterly-southerly direction.
Lattimer: What was in the direction that he ran; what was there?
Lattimer: What did you do at that point?
Haskel: I exited my vehicle.
Lattimer: So how many times did you fire while you were in the vehicle?
Lattimer: Where is Clay at this point?
Haskel: I don’t know.
Lattimer: Did you radio in anything?
Haskel: I didn’t have the radio.
Clay: I notified Officer Haskel that I believe that he [the boy on the minibike] had a gun, and I exited the vehicle.
Lattimer: And then you got out.
Clay: Yes.…to the rear of the truck.
Lattimer: Did you pull out your weapon at that point?
Lattimer: OK. And then what happened?
Clay: As I was going to the rear of the truck, I heard gunshots.…I heard multiple gunshots as I was exiting—as I exited the vehicle. When I got to the end of the truck, I noticed Mr. Rawlings firing a weapon…on the sidewalk.
Lattimer: Where was he at that point?
Clay: Running down the sidewalk.
Lattimer: So he was running?
Lattimer: He wasn’t standing?
Clay: No.…He was running away, I guess.
Lattimer: So he’s running towards the buildings; is that right?
Lattimer: You’re in the alley and Haskel, is he still in the truck at that point?
Clay: I’m not sure.
Lattimer: So you don’t know where he is?
Lattimer: You all are together and you’re not concerned about him?…
Clay: Once I exited the truck and I heard the gunshots, I could no longer see the other side of the truck.
Lattimer: So did you fire at Mr. Rawlings?
Clay: No, I didn’t.
Clay: By the time I pulled my weapon out, Mr. Rawlings was—had run out of my sight.
Lattimer: All right. So now you get out—you fired twice and then you get out of the vehicle, and what is the person doing that’s running away?
Haskel: Still firing…firing across his body.
Lattimer: All right. And so you’re behind him, right?
Haskel: Not at this point.
Lattimer: Well, when you got out of the car, you weren’t behind him? I mean, out of the truck.
Haskel: Still across, like across from him.
Lattimer: So he’s running sideways?
Lattimer: And firing at you across his body?
Lattimer: OK. So he’s not looking where’s he going?
Lattimer: There are other people out there, right?
Lattimer: The direction you’re firing, you’re firing directly towards where people live, correct?
Haskel: OK. Yes.
Lattimer: I mean, he’s running towards the cut in between two buildings, correct?
Lattimer: And you’re firing directly toward those two buildings, right?
Haskel: I would say that the last three shots was in that direction.
Lattimer: OK. So three shots. How many shots did you fire?
Lattimer: And then after you fired the last shot, he fell?
Haskel: Yes, sir.
Lattimer: You had shot him.
Haskel: Repeat that.
Lattimer: You had shot him.
Lattimer: And you knew you had shot him.
Lattimer: Well, he fell.
Lattimer: And he didn’t move.
Haskel: Yes.…And at that time I didn’t know whether Officer Clay had fired his weapon.
Lattimer: Now, you didn’t go offer him any assistance, right?
Haskel: I was going towards—towards him, turned to Officer Clay, told him to call for help.…I turned back, there was at least three people at the body.
Haskel: They were bending over the body, down at the body.
Lattimer: OK, and? What happened?
Haskel: One of them said to me that you shot him in the head.
Haskel: OK. At that time I looked to see what Officer Clay was doing.…I went to Officer Clay and took control of the radio, switched to the proper channel and I called for assistance.
Lattimer: OK. And did you go and render medical aid?
Lattimer: Why not?
Haskel: There was too many people there.…
Lattimer: How many had been shot in the head?
Lattimer: In fact, you didn’t even approach him, right?
Haskel: I didn’t even approach him.
Lattimer: You didn’t even try to see if he was alive, right?
Haskel: I didn’t.
Haskel: I just didn’t.…More people came into the courtyard. And at that time I didn’t feel it was safe to go back over to the body.
Lattimer: Well, did you ever identify yourself as a police officer to anybody?
Haskel: Not at that time, no, sir.
Lattimer: Why did you tell [Clay] to drive off?
Haskel: Concern for my family.
Lattimer: How so? What is the concern for your family at that point?
Haskel: Living in the area, my family, my wife drive that vehicle. I didn’t want any repercussions or anything like that to come down on my family because I was involved in a shooting in the neighborhood.
Lattimer: For you to remove evidence from the scene of a shooting would be totally inconsistent with police procedures; would you agree?
Lattimer: After Officer Clay leaves the scene, the crowd is gathering, what did you do?
Haskel: I’m sure you’re familiar with the area. There’s the alley, the courtyards on each side of the alley, came to the courtyard opposite of where the shooting occurred, continued to call for the units to come. Heard them coming but they weren’t there yet. People were waving me back over to the scene, which is unusual. As I seen units—I asked for a unit to meet me on the Atlantic—no, on Yuma Street. And I saw units pulling up on the scene, and I came out on to Yuma. As the cruiser pulled up on Yuma Street, I identified myself and got in his vehicle…and he drove me—he drove away.
Lattimer: But you weren’t there to tell them where evidence might be located, right?
Haskel: No, sir.
Lattimer: And you weren’t there to identify anybody who might be in a position to remove evidence, right?
Haskel: No, sir.
Lattimer: And that’s not consistent with police practice, is it?
###NEXT PAGE:The Pick-Up###
Officer Anthony Fucci was on patrol that evening. He had been a D.C. police officer for a little more than two years. In his deposition, he said that he pulled up along Yuma Street and spotted Haskel, who had walked across a courtyard and down a series of steps. Fucci, when he picked up Haskel, was fewer than a 100 yards from Rawlings.
Fucci says he did not see any other police cruisers around and that he appeared to be the first on the scene. Instead of attending to Rawlings, he picked up Haskel. The two drove around and eventually ended up at Haskel’s mother’s house.
They then got back in the cruiser. There, Fucci gave him the number of an attorney. Haskel talked on his cell phone for a while. Fucci testified in his deposition that he stepped out of the car to give his fellow officer privacy.
Fucci: Dispatcher said somebody would need to find the officer, so I went and found the officer.…I was sent to go find the officer.
Lattimer: You were sent to go find the officer?
Lattimer: OK. So did he tell you what the emergency was?
Fucci: I knew there was a shooting.
Lattimer: How did you know that
Fucci: I don’t know.
Lattimer: So you don’t even know why you’re responding?
Lattimer: So he’s—you stop for him, and he says what to you?
Fucci: I don’t recall what he said to me.
Lattimer: But you let him in the car?
Lattimer: So at that point, you had decided that the call would have to be handled by somebody else…
Lattimer: Did you see other officers on the scene?
Lattimer: Did you call in on the radio and tell them that, ‘I have this individual who has a radio, and I’m putting him in my vehicle, and we’re going to drive away?’
Fucci: Eventually, yes.
Lattimer: So where did y’all go?
Fucci: 800 block of [Xenia] Street.
Lattimer: Why there?
Fucci: It’s just where we went.
Fucci: It was quiet over there.
Lattimer: So why were you going to a quiet place?
Fucci: Wait for an official to arrive.
Fucci: Because that’s what I was told to do.
Lattimer: By who?
Fucci: By the dispatcher. Find the officer, remove him from – make sure he’s safe, put him in an area where he was safe until an official arrived.
Lattimer: All right. So did y’all have any conversation while you were in the car with him?
Fucci: Conversate, no.
Lattimer: So you didn’t talk to this person at all?
Fucci: I did not talk to him, no.
Lattimer: And this person didn’t talk to you at all?
Fucci: He made one statement.
Lattimer: Which was?
Fucci: I can’t remember exactly what his statement was. It was something to the effect of, “why did he have a gun?”
Lattimer: So how did y’all end up at his mom’s house?
Fucci: It’s where we stopped.
Lattimer: Excuse me?
Fucci: It’s where I stopped.
Lattimer: That’s where you stopped?
Lattimer: How did you end up stopping at his mother’s house?…So this was just a coincidence?
Fucci: I don’t know if it was a coincidence.
Lattimer: Well, you were driving, right?
Lattimer: So you drove the car, right?
Lattimer: And you stopped where the car was stopped, right?
Lattimer: So you didn’t know that his mother lived where you stopped, right?
Fucci: Correct.…I can’t recall whether he told me to stop there or not.
Lattimer: Is that standard procedure?
Fucci: I don’t know what the standard procedure is for that situation.
Lattimer: When you got in that vehicle, where did you go?
Haskel: 8th and Condon Terrace.
Lattimer: And then what happened?
Haskel: We sat there for a while. He asked me was I OK. I said yes. And I think I told him to take me to my mother’s house.
Lattimer: Why was that?
Haskel: To let my mother know that I was involved in a shooting.
Lattimer: [The cop] told you that wasn’t a good idea, right?
Haskel: Yes, I think he did.
Lattimer: But you and he went to your mother’s house anyway.
Lattimer: How long did you stay there?
Haskel: Three minutes, if that.
Lattimer: You did speak with your mother.
Lattimer: After you left there, your mother’s house, where did you go?
Haskel: A sergeant working met us at 8th—no 9th and Xenia. I’m not sure of the sergeant’s name.
Lattimer: Then what happened?
Haskel: He took my weapon.…Then they—they drove—drove me to 7th District.
Lattimer: When did you learn the identity of the person you shot?
Haskel: When did I learn? From the news.
Lattimer: So Officer Haskel comes to you. At this point you don’t know this officer is really shooting, is that what you’re saying?
Clay: No, I didn’t. I know we had—there were shots fired. That’s all I know.
Lattimer: All right. So Officer—you didn’t know that Officer Haskel had shot somebody.
Clay: No, I didn’t.…I didn’t know he was involved in a shooting.
Lattimer: Well, let me understand. You didn’t know if he had shot at all?
Clay: No, not at the time.
Lattimer: All right. Now, you had no idea that you were removing potential evidence, right?
Clay: No, I didn’t.
Lattimer: You didn’t know that he was shooting while he was in there, right?
Clay: No, I didn’t.
Lattimer: And you didn’t know that a bullet supposedly hit the truck, right?
Clay: No, I didn’t.
Lattimer: And if you had known that, you would have never done that, right?
Clay: I would have never done it.
Lattimer: So you—where did [Haskel] tell you to drive the truck?
Clay: He didn’t.
Lattimer: So where did you drive the truck?
Clay: Back to our neighborhood, where we live.…His house.
Lattimer: Now, didn’t you run into some police officers that were arriving at the scene?
Clay: Yes, I did.
Lattimer: And then you talked to them at the end of the alley.
Clay: I didn’t talk to them. I just waved them on and said he’s back there in the alley with a weapon.
Lattimer: So they were responding—
Lattimer: All right. And then you went to his house.
Clay: Yes.…I parked the truck in the common driveway and I think I gave the keys to his wife.…I walked back up to where I—where the crowd was on the side of my house and sat on the wall.
Lattimer: So removing yourself from the location of a shooting, that was also improper, wasn’t it?
Lattimer: Because you too were a potential witness; isn’t that right?
Lattimer: So why did you violate policy by leaving and going to your house?
Clay: That was a personal decision I made.
Lattimer: Now, when you went to your house and you sat down, what did you do?
Clay: I just sat on the wall.
Lattimer: Did you call any supervisors, let them know where you were?
Clay: No, I hadn’t done that.
Lattimer: Did you report that you had left the scene?
Lattimer: Did you report that you had removed the truck?
Clay: No, I didn’t report it.
Lattimer: You just sat there.
Lattimer: Doing what?
Clay: Still in awe over what happened.
Lattimer: At some point did you report what happened or did someone come talk to you or what happened?
Lattimer: Which one, you reported it or someone just came to your house?
Clay: I had responded to the 7th District.
Lattimer: At what point did you do that?
Clay: Once I got a phone call from Officer Haskel.
Lattimer: You called him, didn’t you?
Clay: Yes, I did.
Lattimer: On his cell phone?
Lattimer: Now when you called Haskel—or did Haskel call you? Which one was it? Let me clarify that. Who called, did you call Haskel or did Haskel call you?
Clay: I believe I called him first. He didn’t answer. I’m not sure if I called back to get in touch with him or he called me.
Lattimer: When you called him, was that your home phone, your cell phone or what?
Clay: Cell phone.
Lattimer: And when he called you, was that from 7D or his—from—from one of the police officers or his cell phone?
Clay: It was to my cell phone. I’m not sure where it was from.…In the first conversation he was in the car with the 7D officer. The second time was, “They need you at 7D.”
Lattimer: When did you find out that someone had been shot?
Clay: [Haskel’s] wife told me.
On the night of the shooting, Sgt. Ralph Wax of the Force Investigation Team, which is summoned on all police deadly use-of-force cases, was on call. Wax had been with force investigations since the unit’s inception in 1999. By his count, according to his deposition, he had worked “several hundred” cases. Wax initially went to the site of the shooting and returned to the 7th District, where he interviewed Haskel and Clay. Lattimer asked him about what officers are supposed to do after a shooting.
Lattimer: You don’t take somebody—a police officer doesn’t take another police officer to his mamma’s house after a shooting?
Wax: Typically I would advise not to do that, yes.
Lattimer: Is that a violation of policy?
Wax: I don’t know.…I would not recommend somebody taking somebody to a mother’s house.
Lattimer asks Wax about the preliminary report he wrote up. The lawyer asks where the sergeant came up with the idea that Rawlings had pulled out a .45 caliber handgun.
Wax: We assumed initially, I guess me wrongly, the only casings that we found, although they were dirty and in the dirt, we initially assumed that they might have been related to Mr. Rawlings. So preliminarily we believed that those three .45-caliber casings that were in the dirt adjacent to where he was were from Mr. Rawlings.
Lattimer: You say you didn’t know what he had but you say in your report it was then that Mr. Rawlings removed a .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun from his right pants pocket, right?
Wax: As I told you before, there are inaccuracies in this report.
Lattimer: Now, once in position, you write, Officer Haskel stood up and observed Mr. Rawlings in the opening between 670 and 672 Atlantic St. SE. Do you see that?
Lattimer: Is that accurate?
Lattimer: But what witness told you that once in position Officer Haskel stood up and observed Mr. Rawlings in the opening between 670 and 672 Atlantic St. SE? What witness told you that?
Lattimer: So if nobody told you that, did you assume it or make it up or what?
Wax: This is a hypothesis based on a synopsis that we created working on based upon the physical and testimonial evidence at this point of the investigation. That’s why it’s considered preliminary information.
Lattimer: Then you say it was there that Mr. Rawlings again fired at Officer Haskel who returned fire striking Mr. Rawlings in the head; is that true?
A Potential Witness Comes Forward
A few weeks after the incident, Clifton Coleman is arrested for shooting his girlfriend in the face. During his interrogation with police, he says that he knew Rawlings and that he witnessed the shooting. He said that he saw Rawlings fire a .38 caliber handgun.
But Coleman had another tie to that crime scene—this one backed up by physical evidence. Those dirty .45-caliber casings police first attached to Rawlings were later linked to a gun recovered from Coleman.
“The two weapons recovered when Mr. Coleman was arrested, those casings are identified as coming from his weapon that day,” Wax stated in his deposition.
Wax admitted that he found no other witnesses other than Coleman. There was one .38 bullet fragment found in the area around where Haskel’s truck would have been. Paint found on the bullet appeared to match the paint layering from the truck.
From very early on in the case, law enforcement cited ShotSpotter recordings indicating that someone fired at the police first. The audio suggested that the civilian fired as many as four times. Another person—presumably Haskel—fired eight rounds.
But there were still serious holes in the ShotSpotter’s technical capabilities and its findings. According to Wax’s deposition, the sensors could not pick up any gunshots from the direction Rawlings was alleged to have run.
Lattimer: If you look at your ShotSpotter which you relied upon, no shots, according [to] this diagram, anyway, were fired from the area in which DeOnté Rawlings ran, correct?
Lattimer: If we were to accept the location that it indicates the shots came from, that would be inconsistent with DeOnté Rawlings having fired while he ran towards Atlantic Street, would you agree?
Wax: Yes. Well, actually, yeah, I mean, if you accept those dots as being the exact location where rounds were fired, then I would say yes.
Lattimer: You cannot tell, based on this report, what happened out there, right?
Wax: It’s just one piece of evidence that we use and consider.
Lattimer: You didn’t take into account at all, nor did you even discuss the fact that on page 3, the locations where ShotSpotter located the gunshots as having come from, was entirely inconsistent with what your understanding of what took place, did you?
Wax: I did not address that part of the report.
The Minibike and the Gun
Bobby E. McNair had been friends with Haskel since their days at Ballou Senior High School more than 20 years ago. On the day after the shooting, he and two other friends were hanging out at 8th and Xenia Streets SE. They were standing on the corner in the early afternoon when they found Haskel’s minibike.
McNair’s first instinct was to wave over a police officer nearby. In his deposition, he stated that he told the cop he had just seen the minibike turn into an alley off Xenia, and that the minibike looked like the one Haskel owned. The cop, he stated, just said “OK” and drove off.
The cop didn’t seem interested in pursuing the stolen minibike at the center of one of the most controversial police shootings in recent memory. But McNair and his two buddies went after it.
What McNair stated happened would surprise even Lattimer: The kid on the minibike had a gun. He had told this to police officers, but the fact of the gun never made it into their investigation reports.
McNair: So, then Stink [another friend of Haskel’s] drove his car right there to the place, over to where the guy was at. The guy hopped off the bike. A gun fell off the bike. He threw the bike in his pick-up truck.
Lattimer: Wait a minute. Let me back up. Did you say a gun fell off his bike?
McNair: Yes. Well, out of his pocket.
Lattimer: The guy on the bike?
McNair: The guy on the bike. Yes.
Lattimer: So, did the officer go down the same alley as the bike?
McNair: No. She didn’t. She went straight down [Xenia] Street.
Lattimer: But the bike had gone down the alley?
Lattimer: Then what did you and your friends do?
McNair: I was standing right there in front of the car, by my car. Stink had went over to the alleyway and was talking to the guy. The next thing you know he is coming back with the bike. But you can see that a gun had dropped out of the guy’s pocket. The guy picked it up and the guy ran off.
Lattimer: So the guy on the bike had a gun?
Lattimer: How old did the guy look to be to you?
McNair: Maybe 15 to 17 maybe.
Lattimer: What happened to the bike?
McNair: Stink picked up the bike, put it in the back of his Ford Explorer, brought it back over here to the street. Then I called [Haskel] and asked him what do you want me to do with the bike? Because at that time I figured the police lady didn’t do anything, so the next best person to call was him. So, that is what I did. I called him.
Lattimer: And then what did [Haskel] tell you to do with the bike?
McNair: I asked him did he want me to bring it to him? He said no. He said just take it home. I said okay. And that is when I threw it in the back of my truck. My car. Not my truck.
Lattimer: Did you ever give a statement to any police personnel?
McNair: Yes. There is a female lady. I can’t think of her name.
Lattimer: What did you tell this police person? Did you tell her what you told me today?
McNair: Yes. Pretty much what I told you today. She just wanted to get somebody out to come pick up the bike.
Lattimer: Did you tell her about the gun?
McNair: Yes. I did.
The Rest of the Story
Since he took on the Rawlings case some 20 20 months ago, Lattimer’s mission remains unchanged. He still needs to nail down exactly who was riding that minibike in that alley on Sept. 17, 2007. He says he is close; he’s narrowed a short list to just a few.
“We want to do what [the police] should have done,” Lattimer says. “That’s been our objective all around—to do what they should have done.…You have to start there. If you don’t know who’s on that bike, you can’t tell this story.”
The cops believe the story has been told. “The police department is very comfortable with the conclusions,” says Assistant Chief Peter Newsham. “I can tell you from seeing the whole thing I’m very comfortable with the investigation.”
The other half of the story is the identity of who shot at Haskel. Lattimer believes the minibike rider and the shooter may be two different teenagers. Once he has them, he says his plan is simple: “I need to get them under oath.”
Whatever he discovers, Lattimer insists, he’s not sharing it with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He had interviewed Clifton Coleman before Coleman’s arrest, he explains. Coleman had told him a completely different story, one that did not implicate Rawlings at all. He double- and triple-checked Coleman’s account with other witnesses—including Coleman’s mother. “Why take it to them,” he argues. “For what?…They know just like I do that this story that the police have been telling is a bunch of crock.”