TAKOMA PARK, Md. — A Pentagon Force Protection Agency police officer shot and killed two people that he believed were attempting to break into a vehicle early Wednesday morning, according to the Takoma Park Police Department.
WUSA9 has been talking with the Department of Defense and legal experts to look at what rules and laws govern what the Pentagon police officer involved can and cannot do.
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 said they 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. Both people died at a Prince George’s County hospital.
Right off the bat, we know the Pentagon officer is now on administrative leave. According to the DOD, he currently meets all of his use of force and firearms qualifications and was allowed to take his service weapon home with him. How he used the weapon is now the focus.
“Well, a lot of questions come to mind,” said Glenn Ivey, former Prince George's County state's attorney and federal prosecutor. “I know the facts aren't all out and they're still investigating.”
Not only are police investigating, but so is the Department of Defense.
We wanted to know what law enforcement authority these Pentagon police officers have outside of their duties at the Pentagon.
DOD sent us the regulations. One says: “PFPA police officers’ exercise of any law enforcement authority while off duty is generally limited to a ‘serious breach of the peace' (when violence is being committed or immediately threatened) including assault and threats to kill, injure or maim.”
“Was somebody armed in the car?” Ivey asked. “Had they been suspected of committing some kind of serious violent act? Had they posed a serious threat to the officer or others?”
The threshold for shooting at a moving vehicle, as Takoma Park police said this officer did, is similar.
That regulation says: “Firearms may be discharged at moving vehicles when an employee has a reasonable basis to believe that the vehicle poses an imminent threat of death or seriously bodily harm to the employee or others. Employees inside a vehicle will not discharge a firearm at an individual(s) outside of their vehicle or at another vehicle.”
“We don't have those facts yet one way or the other, but unless those are there, trying to break into a car would typically not be the kind of criminal act or suspected criminal act that would justify the use of deadly force,” Ivey said.
Authorities haven't released the Pentagon police officer's name yet.
WUSA9 also reached out to the union that represents Pentagon Force Protection Agency officers. So far, they have not responded to us.
We are also waiting to hear back from the Department of Defense about the punishments or penalties if they find an officer has violated any of these regulations.