WASHINGTON - A second D.C. police officer has been placed on leave in connection to the fatal shooting of an unarmed man, Mayor Muriel Bowser told FOX 5 DC on Tuesday. Bowser said the second officer was driving the cruiser, and allegedly broke police protocol by using the vehicle as a barricade.
According to police, Terrence Sterling was seen riding his motorcycle erratically near 17th and U Streets in Adams Morgan at around 4:30 a.m. Sunday. About ten minutes later, Sterling wound up at 3rd and M Streets where he was shot and killed. Police say Sterling struck the police cruiser as he was trying to get away, and was then shot by one of the two officers in the cruiser. Sterling was not armed.
However, a witness to the shooting gave FOX 5 a slightly different account of the incident. Kandace Simms said she had just picked up a friend and was sitting in the right-hand lane waiting at the traffic light at 3rd and M Streets.
"So I pulled up to the light and I was there by myself for some time and some cars were coming behind me, but then I saw a motorcycle come on the left of me and then the police car blocked the motorcycle, so they kind of came at the same exact time,” Simms told FOX 5's Paul Wagner on Monday. “The motorcycle was trying to speed off and drive away, but he couldn't because he was kind of caught in between the sidewalk at the curb and the police car. So the police were trying to open the passenger side door and he couldn't because the motorcycle was right there, and I guess when he couldn't open the door, he rolled down his window and shot twice.”
Simms said her windows were rolled down and she heard no commands coming from the officer in the cruiser. She said she saw the motorcycle strike the cruiser once.
“It did, but that is because they blocked him,” she said. “The police car wasn't right there when I pulled up."
Simms said she believes the collision looked unavoidable.
On Sunday morning, D.C. Police Assistant Chief Peter Newsham gave the following account to reporters:
"Officers found the vehicle over here at the intersection of 3rd and M Streets, Northwest, which is about a block north of New York Avenue,” he said. “They were able to stop the vehicle. The person who was riding the motorcycle attempted to flee and ended up striking the police car. At that point, shots were fired. The victim was taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.”
According to a D.C. Fire and EMS radio broadcast FOX 5 has been able to hear, Sterling was shot in the neck.
At a Monday afternoon news conference, Mayor Bowser said she called the victim’s family to offer her condolences and revealed only the aftermath of the shooting was captured on a police body camera. Officers wearing body cameras are under strict orders to turn them on as soon as they begin an encounter with a member of the public.
The officer who fired at Sterling did not suffer serious injuries and was placed on administrative leave, police said Monday.
Sterling, 31, had worked for more than a decade as an HVAC technician at a contracting firm. Sterling's mother confirmed to FOX 5 Mayor Bowser had called the family to extend her condolences. She would not say if their family had retained an attorney.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact police at 202-727-9099.