TAKOMA PARK, Md. — Social justice activists are demanding complete transparency, but Takoma Park Police are pleading for patience Thursday as they continued their investigation of an off-duty Pentagon police officer who allegedly fatally shot two people he said he believed were attempting to break into a car early Wednesday.
Police identified the victims Thursday as 32-year-old Dominique Williams, of Hyattsville, and 38-year-old James Lionel Johnson, of District Heights.
Around 5 a.m. Wednesday, Takoma Park police responded to the Takoma Overlook Condominiums on New Hampshire Avenue for reports of gunshots. On scene, the officers were approached by an off-duty Pentagon Force Protection Agency (PFPA) officer who said he witnessed an attempted car break-in. According to Takoma Park police, the off-duty officer said he "engaged" the individuals and opened fire at them when they fled the scene in a vehicle.
Police were later informed that two gunshot victims had driven themselves to Prince George’s Hospital Center. Both died at the hospital from their injuries, police said.
On the street where Johnson lives, neighbor John Charles said Thursday he was skeptical the shooting was justified.
"I understand he said he thought they were robbing, but still, that's no reason to go start shooting, shooting, shooting in the car. That's no reason at all, that's totally ridiculous," Charles said.
"There needs to be heightened scrutiny of what took place here," said Carlean Ponder, a member of the Silver Spring Justice Coalition. "There needs to be absolute and rapid transparency."
A Department of Defense spokeswoman confirmed to WUSA9 that the officer involved in the shooting had been employed with the agency since July 2019. Prior to that, a spokeswoman said, the officer had served as a federal police officer from 2009-2019 and also as a U.S. Army military policeman and in the U.S. Air Force as a combat crewman.
The DoD said the officer is "current on all use of force and firearms qualifications."
The DoD said a 2014 regulation limits off-duty law enforcement authority for PFPA officers to a "serious breach of the peace (when violence is being committed or immediately threatened) including assault and threats to kill, injure or maim."
PFPA officers are also bound by a 2008 use-of-force regulation stating that officers may fire at moving vehicles "when an employee has a reasonable basis to believe that the vehicle poses an immediate threat of death or serious bodily harm to the employee or others."
This is an ongoing investigation and Takoma Park PD is working with the Montgomery County State’s Attorney's Office.
This is the second incident of an off-duty Pentagon officer involved in a shooting in two weeks. On March 25, a 16-year-old boy was shot by an off-duty Pentagon Force Protection Agency member after allegedly trying to rob the officer in Southeast, D.C. The teen has been charged with assault with intent to commit robbery while armed with a BB gun, D.C. police said.