WASHINGTON – A woman was shot by a Washington, D.C., police officer at the scene of a fire Saturday evening in Northeast Washington.
The woman was armed with knives and she refused commands to drop them when police encountered her, D.C. police chief Cathy L. Lanier told the Washington Post Saturday.
Both police and firefighters were sent to a street about 9 miles east of the White House for reports of a fire. On the way to the scene police were told of someone there with a knife, she said.
Exactly what prompted the confrontation remained unclear.
"We don't really know what's behind this," Lanier said. No rigid rules determine how officers are to respond in such circumstances, she said.
"There is no policy that dictates every individual officer's perception and every individual officer's actions," she said. "It is something we train officers to handle based on what the situation is."
Metropolitan Police Department Commander David Taylor said police were called to the scene at about 6:15 p.m. for a report of a fire. When officers responded they found a woman who was holding at least one knife, he said. Officers told her to drop the weapon but she did not respond to their command and as the woman continued to advance, she was shot once in the upper body Taylor said. The woman was taken to the hospital, Taylor said, and is in stable condition.
A 15-second video posted on the Internet shows an officer, arms extended, pointing a pistol at a woman in a pink baseball style hat. She appears to be about 8 to 10 feet away, advancing sporadically and unsteadily toward him. He takes a step or two backward. Urgent cries are heard, apparently from bystanders. "Put the knife down," one person shouts. "Put it down."
A man in a T-shirt stands between the two, a little to the side, waving his arms downward, apparently calling for her to drop what she carried. In the video, the woman's hands are not readily visible. Then a single pop is heard, accompanied by screams. The image swirls around, and the video ends.
Lanier said she understood videos had been made at the scene, and asked that they be made available to police.
In interviews with the Washington Post, two witnesses said that when encountered by police, the woman had a knife, which they described as relatively small.
One man, Gerald McBrayer, said the woman was holding "a little steak knife," and received no warning.
Another man, Nathan Strickland, said she had a steak knife with what he described as a skinny" 6 to 8 inch blade.
The cause of the fire on Clay Terrace was under investigation, a fire department spokesman said. It was not clear what connection the woman may have had with it.