A belated kudos to the Washington Post editorial page, for nailing a thoroughly reported editorial-cum-investigative piece on the DeOnte Rawlings situation. Though we’ve already cited the piece in our fabulous Loose Lips Daily, a more complete breakdown is in order.
Rawlings, 14, was shot and killed by an off-duty police officer on Sept. 17, 2007. Subsequent investigations by the U.S. attorney’s office and the police department have concluded that the officer, and another off-duty police official, broke no laws or departmental rules. They returned to their jobs.
The Post editorial concerns itself with the city’s handling of the case, a response characterized by secrecy; details of the investigations have not been released to the public. Here are some of the shocking-but-then-again-not-so-shocking revelations in the Post editorial:
—-James Haskel, the officer who shot Rawlings, pursued the youth after he found a minibike missing from his garage. Haskel and another officer spotted Rawlings riding it and testify that Rawlings shot at them. So Haskel fired back, hitting Rawlings with a fatal shot to the head. Though the U.S. attorney’s office exonerated the officer, the Post points to some holes in the case: “No gun was ever found, the minibike went mysteriously missing and the officers, who at the time did not identify themselves as police, left the scene — issues that have never been adequately addressed.”
—-Even more troubling: The police department, according to the Post account, was ready to clear the officers before it even investigated the event: “Neither officer had been screened for drugs or alcohol, and a walk-through of the events surrounding the shooting had yet to occur, but the Metropolitan Police’s force investigation team said that its preliminary review ‘found no issues of concern.'” Unreal.
—-The crux of the case is the officers’ claim that Rawlings shot at them—a claim that rested in part on an alleged bullet hole in an SUV driven by the police. In the words of the Post, “It turns out that there was no bullet hole but, as recently characterized by Mr. Haskel, an ‘indentation.’ The boy is alleged to have fired from a distance of about 10 feet and an initial police report said that a .45-caliber gun was used, but that has never been confirmed.”
It’s time for the city to show its work. Release the report of this case, and let the citizens reach their own conclusions on the officers’ conduct. The failure of the Fenty administration to do just that hardly inspires confidence about the city’s ability to police itself in other such instances, like the recent police shooting of Logan Circle resident David Kerstetter.