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Maybe you are sick of hearing about the DeOnte Rawlings case. The 14-year-old was shot and killed by an off-duty police officer on September 17, 2007. That’s a long time ago. By now, the off-duty cops have been cleared by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the D.C. Police Department. Law enforcement contends that Rawlings had fired on the officers—-James Haskel and Anthony Clay—-first and was riding Haskel’s stolen minibike. Officer Haskel only returned fire in self defense.
In this series, City Desk has set out to chronicle the case’s oddities and various headscratchers. You can read part one here, and part two here. Now comes this curious detail from Sgt. Ralph Wax.
On September 4, 2008, the D.C. Police Department cleared Haskel and Clay of wrongdoing in connection with the shooting death of Rawlings. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said that she was happy to have the officers back. But in the Post story linked above, it was reported that Clay had been reprimanded for an undisclosed infraction. Sgt. Wax’s deposition sheds some light on what that might have been. In his deposition, he stated that he cited both officers. And the citation was not for some small infraction.
Wax headed up the investigation into the Rawlings shooting. On the night of September 17, he interviewed both Haskel and Clay. Generally, he was the one responsible for the Rawlings case. In his deposition, Wax stated that he cited both officers for fleeing the scene—-a major reason why this case has drawn so much outrage.
Both officers admitted in their own testimony that their actions—-like leaving Rawlings behind and failing to safeguard evidence, etc.—-bucked police procedure.
It is unclear whether Wax’s write-ups were ever approved by the department’s top brass or whether the officers were punished in some way. When asked about the possible reprimands, Assistant Chief Peter Newsham, who ran the Internal Affairs division and is familiar with the case, refused to comment.