This week we published a cover story about the D.C. Police shooting death of David Kerstetter. Kerstetter lived at the Iowa, a complex located at 1325 13th Street NW. During the course of reporting, I interviewed a neighbor, Sherry Lichtenberg who met with the two cops that morning, who talked to them just before they went inside Kerstetter’s condo.
Some of Lichtenberg’s account of that morning on Nov. 6 are in the full story. Here is the rest of our conversation.
“When this all started, I was happy the police where there,” Lichtenberg says. The police had been called because the door to Kerstetter’s condo had been broken and left open. It looked suspicious. Also, her mother had phoned Lichtenberg out of concern that her son was having a breakdown; he had struggled with mental-health issues for years. “I was concerned that David would try to hurt himself….I was worried about him,” the neighbor says.
“It had been a rainy day,” she remembers. “It was cool enough that I think I had grabbed a sweater from the closet.”
After the officers arrived, they walked over to Kerstetter’s condo—No. 10—and talked things over with Lichtenberg and the property’s super. It was a young cop and an older cop. The veteran, Officer Frederick Friday, had a funny name, she thought.
She recalls Friday telling her that he knew Kerstetter. “I’ve been her before,” he told her. “I had got the impression that he had been there a number of times. That he had been called many times.”
Lichtenberg says they had a fairly involved conversation about Kerstetter. “I said he really has to go to the hospital. We have to get him to the hospital. He’s clearly mentally sick.
Friday, she says, explained to her how the process would work, how the police could get him evaluated, that he could be held for 48 hours. “We talked about a very similar [incident] with my cousin,” she adds.
“It seemed to me that he expressed grave concern,” Lichtenberg says of Friday. She thought that the officers were “going to take care and that it was good the police were there.”
Lichtenberg adds that Friday took down the name of Kerstetter’s psychiatrist. She had called Kerstetter’s mother and was able to track down contact information for his doctor. She says she was there at David’s doorstep with the police for close to a half hour.
Both Lichtenberg and the building employee volunteered to talk to David. The police rejected the offer. David had called down and refused to let the employee inside, saying he was really just the police.
Lichtenberg says she had a call she had to make in her home so she had to leave before the police went inside. She remembers they asked about Kerstetter’s animals. “They asked [the building’s employee] if David had any weapons. [He] said, ‘No.'”
Lichtenberg says she did not hear the gun shots.
“I thought everything was OK,” she says. “I gave [the officer] the information and I went back to my house.”
*photo by Darrow Montgomery.