Takoma Park, MD – An off-duty Pentagon police officer fatally shot two suspects after intervening in what he believed to be a vehicle break-in, according to police.
The incident occurred in the parking lot of the Takoma Overlook Condominiums located at 7333 New Hampshire Avenue at approximately 5 a.m. on Wednesday, the Takoma Park Police Department (TPPD) said in a news release.
The TPPD received a report of shots fired in the area at 5:03 a.m., and arrived to find an off-duty Pentagon Force Protection Agency (PFPA) police officer.
The PFPA officer told them he spotted two suspects who he believed were trying to break into a vehicle.
“Get down! Get down!” witnesses heard someone yelling, according to police radio traffic obtained by WJLA.
“He engaged the suspects who failed to follow his direction,” the TPPD said in the press release. “The suspects attempted to flee in a vehicle at which time the officer discharged his service weapon.”
The suspects escaped, but soon turned up at Prince George’s Hospital, according to police.
Both had been shot and succumbed to their wounds at the hospital.
The PFPA has been notified about the officer-involved shooting, which is being investigated by the Takoma Police Department with the assistance of the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office.
A Department of Defense (DOD) spokesperson said late Wednesday evening that the PFPA officer who shot the suspects previously served as a U.S. Army military police officer and as a U.S. Air Force combat crewman, WUSA reported.
He worked as a federal police officer from 2009 until July of 2019, when he joined the PFPA, according to the DOD spokesperson.
The agency said the officer who fired the shots is “current on all use of force and firearms qualifications,” WUSA reported.
He has been placed on administrative leave while the incident is being investigated, according to WJLA.
Under a 2008 use-of-force regulation, PFPA officers are only permitted to shoot 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,” WUSA reported.
It isn’t clear at this time if the vehicle was driving at the off-duty officer at the time he opened fire.
The officer is also bound by a 2014 regulation limiting off-duty PFPA officers’ law enforcement authority to situations involving a “serious breach of the peace (when violence is being committed or immediately threatened) including assault and threats to kill, injure or maim,” according to the news outlet.
Protesters have already determined the officer-involved shooting was unjustified, WSAZ reported.
“This was a wrongful shooting,” Silver Spring Justice Coalition member Seth Grimes said. “This is not someone who has been trained to handle interactions with community members. But this case illustrates why we need transparency [and] use of force rules governing police officers.”