'I wish I knew why' | DC Police provide first major update on investigation into 'sniper-style' shooting
Chief Contee said investigators have not determined the reason why 23-year-old Raymond Spencer opened fire from a "sniper's nest" on April 22.
Almost three weeks after a lone gunman terrorized D.C. for hours during a "sniper-style" shooting that put teenage students in the crosshairs and left four people injured, DC Police provided an update on their ongoing investigation. While there are still numerous unknowns about the shooting -- including a motive -- photos and a more detailed timeline of events give additional insight into what happened inside the AVA Van Ness apartment building and Edmund Burke School on April 22.
"Community members don't oftentimes understand like the why behind things, and we're still searching for that answer," DC Police Chief Robert Contee said as way of explanation for why he hosted a press conference on an in-progress investigation. "But hopefully, with some of these visual images that we're sharing, people will really kind of get an inside look of what we were dealing with, on this dreadful day here in the District of Columbia."
'Dreadful Day' Begins: First Reports Radioed In
The "dreadful day" began in earnest at 3:18 p.m. when an off-duty DC Police officer, William Peterson, working security detail at Edmund Burke called in shots fired and asked for backup.
“4101 Connecticut Avenue, I believe we have an active shooter here," Peterson can be heard telling a dispatcher over the radio. "Get me units to respond.”
Community members panicked as the gunman opened fire, aiming at and hitting the school windows, shattering glass on an enclosed pedestrian bridge and tracking students running away through his rifle scope.
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PHOTOS | Inside the Van Ness shooter's sniper nest, views from the pedestrian bridge in the crosshairs
'Very Clear View': Gunman's Online Posts
In the middle of the shooting, Contee said the alleged gunman, identified as 23-year-old Raymond Spencer of Fairfax, was posting on 4Chan claiming responsibility for the shooting and not doing anything to disguise his identity.
The original posts, now deleted, included a "school shooting" alert from poster Raymond Spencer that included a video from the shooter's perspective showing more than 60 rounds fired in 19 seconds followed by another post saying "they're in the wrong part of the building now searching" and eventually "waiting for police to catch up with me."
Contee said Spencer was also simultaneously updating the Wikipedia page for Edmund Burke School to post about the shooting, though a DC Police spokesperson declined to say what Spencer wrote specifically.
Contee shared numerous images both of the damage from the shooting scene, and what was found inside Spencer's fifth-floor apartment that he believes show Spencer had a "very clear view of what his target was."
'He Certainly Had The Firepower': 800 Rounds Of Ammo Found
At previous press conferences, Contee told reporters that more than 100 rounds were fired from the gunman's "sniper nest" seemingly at random. But the chief believes the damage could have been far greater than it was, given that six firearms, including four long guns, and approximately 800 rounds of unused ammunition were confiscated from the apartment.
"This really could have been a lot worse than what it was," Contee said at Thursday's press conference. "He certainly had the firepower. He certainly had the will ... and the mindset to do what he did on this particular day."
The chief acknowledged that there are still many unanswered questions in the ongoing investigation, including why Spencer would target Edmund Burke, but said what has become very clear is that Spencer had cut himself off from family and friends long before the shooting, calling him a "true loner."
"This individual, at least for the last year or so, and prior to that, really, defines a loner in my view."
A Question Of Motive: Answers Still Sought
Lead investigator Joshua Branson added that the majority of Spencer's neighbors willing to talk to police felt like they didn't know the man, but said they've never seen him with friends or have any company in his apartment. Branson noted that Spencer's cellphone has not been found, but that detectives are looking into all his phone records and financial transactions. Contee said Spencer has racked up thousands of dollars in credit card debt as well.
"It's easy when you have a suspect who leaves behind a manifesto, and they're kind of telling you why they did what they did," Contee said. "But in this particular case, he left his fingerprint behind and he left his name behind."
'Coming Out Of The Woods': How The Victims Are Faring
Contee also provided a brief update on the conditions of the four people shot during the attack. The 12-year-old girl who was shot while walking on the pedestrian bridge at Edmund Burke was described as being "in better physical health" but still recovering from the trauma.
A 56-year-old retired DC Police officer, Antonio Harris, suffered the most severe injuries and is still recovering in the hospital but appears to be "coming out of the woods."
Karen Lowry, a 47-year-old woman who was waiting in her car for school pickup was treated at the hospital and released.
And 63-year-old Patricia Termini, who talked to WUSA9 at the scene of the shooting, suffered a graze wound to the shoulder and was treated at the scene.
3:18 p.m.: Officer Peterson radios in an "active shooter" situation at Edmund Burke School at 4101 Connecticut Ave. NW
- School is put on lockdown, students and staff told to shelter in place
3:30 p.m.: Raymond Spencer posts on 4Chan and edits Wikipedia page for Edmund Burke School
- 2nd District Commander Duncan Bedlion arrives on scene, established command post for MPD and partners
- Chief Contee, who was not in D.C., calls and gets briefed
- Community tips start coming in, including a citizen alerting MPD to the potential location of where the shots are being fired from
4:22 p.m.: AVA Van Ness residents evacuated
5:28 p.m.: Family reunification center established at Cleveland Park Library
7:39 p.m.: Raymond Spencer announced as "person of interest" to public
8:36 p.m.: MPD officers attempt to enter apartment 511, barricaded by a fridge
- Camera found in the hallway outside unit 511 set up to see officers approaching the door
8:46 p.m.: MPD is told one person is dead in the apartment 511 bathroom from self-inflicted gunshot
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