David Kerstetter was shot and killed by a D.C. Police Department officer on Nov. 6. We wrote a cover story on the incident. During the course of my reporting, I spent hours on the phone with Kerstetter’s family. They talked about his love of Mel Brooks movies, his caustic wit at the dinner table, his graduation from the University of Maryland, his archaeological dig in Israel, and his troubles with mental-illness and meth addiction. In an early e-mail, his brother wrote about Kerstetter serving in the army during the first Gulf War. The family sent me one letter which I quote in my story.
A few days ago, the family sent me a few more letters. I’d like to quote from one of them.
One letter, dated Jan. 1, 1991, and begins with this: “Things have gone pretty wako (sic) since our lovely Mr. Bush announced that we are going on the offensive. I can’t say much about it, but let’s just say that while the worlds two biggest hard heads sit in their well protected and comfortable offices, we are getting ready to raise hell.”
Kerstetter goes on to write about a letter that was read on the radio. It was from a woman and it disturbed him a lot. “In the letter she said that she was tired of hearing about the families of servicemen over here. She believed that people in the states should not be so concerned about us and our families, because by being soldiers this is the price we have to pay for ‘adventure.’ Is this the attitude of most people back home?”
Maybe the implication was that the woman was just tired of hearing Gulf War stories. I hope we won’t get tired of hearing the story of Kerstetter’s shooting death. There are still too many questions left unanswered by police.
And it’s an important story that involves all kinds of issues: how the government takes care of it’s most vulnerable, how the police investigate shootings, how they release information. And the big question: Will the police department ever change how it handles residents in crisis?
This morning, the Washington Post published an editorial, “Justice for DeOnte,” and called for law enforcement to open up the records and release information related to that shooting. The editorial went on to point out a lot of unanswered questions related to the shooting death of the 14-year-old. I am happy that the paper called the police out on this case. All of Fenty’s promises of transparency are meaningless if the police department won’t come clean when they shoot and kill a District resident.
When the Kerstetter family went to their son’s apartment after the shooting, they found a bullet. They had to call the police and wait two hours for them to come and pick up this important piece of evidence. They wonder whether the investigation will be at all adequate considering how the crime scene was handled. When you miss a bullet, what else did you miss?
The records in the DeOnte Rawlings case should be made public. And the records in the David Kerstetter case should be made public as well.