DC police release body cam video of Deon Kay shooting (plus activists show up at Mayor Bowser's home)

There was a police shooting in Washington, DC yesterday. An 18-year-old named Deon Kay was shot once and died from his injuries. Immediately, there were claims that police had “murdered” Kay by shooting him in the back. But today police released the body camera footage which showed that Kay did have a gun and was shot in the chest while running toward an officer, not in the back. Here’s the briefing video already cued up to the description of the incident. The video is graphic:

The whole incident happens very fast. I had to watch it a few times to get a sense of what was happening. The officer whose perspective we’re seeing was running after another suspect who’d gotten out of the car first. About the time he reached the position where that suspect’s car was parked, Deon Kay got out of the passenger side of the same vehicle. The officer shouts “Don’t move!” several times and as he turns back toward Kay, he raises his gun.

In a freeze-frame you can see that Kay did have a gun in his right hand just before the officer fired. By pausing and restarting, it appears to me the gun had actually left his hand a fraction of a second before the shot was fired. But obviously the officer wasn’t able to scrub through the incident in this way. He saw Kay running up on him with a gun in his right hand, his arm coming up, and he fired a shot. I’m not sure how he could possibly have known in that instant that Kay intended to throw the gun not fire it. Obviously if he’d guessed wrong the result could have been very serious for him.

So that’s what actually happened but long before any details were released, activists were accusing the police of murder:

Police did release some details in a statement last night, i.e. the fact that Kay had a gun when the shooting took place. They even released a picture:

But as I mentioned, that’s not the story that was circulating on the street yesterday. Many people, who hadn’t seen the police video, were convinced that Kay had been shot in the back like Jacob Blake was in Kenosha or like some people claimed (falsely) that Mike Brown had been in Ferguson. Here’s one angry DC resident explaining what happened to a Deadspin reporter last night:

And here’s Kay’s aunt repeating the same story:

Chuck Modi was called out last night for helping to spread these unconfirmed (now shown to be false) claims:


Modi’s response: The anger is real even if the details aren’t accurate.

Actually, no. People get angry, in large part, because of the details. When they hear stories about innocent unarmed teens being gunned down by racist police while they had their hands up in surrender, they understandably get angry. That was the initial take on the Mike Brown shooting and it was false but the anger generated by that story was very real and remains with us to this day.

There was an anti-police protest at the precinct last night and it seems most people had heard this (false) version of the shooting:

Here’s the same relative interviewed above demanding to know why police shot her nephew in the back:

I’m actually sympathetic to what she’s saying about how the family is hurting but the officer is right that the thing to do is wait to see what the body camera shows before jumping to conclusions.

Later last night, around 1 am, a group of people turned up for a protest outside Mayor Bowser’s house.

As in Portland, when they can’t get to their target, they turn on the target’s neighbors:

Anyway, now that the video has been released, you’ll be shocked to learn that no one has changed their opinion.

Deon Kay’s death is a terrible outcome, obviously for him and his family but also for his community, which was given false information about what happened. There’s no getting around the fact that what he did here was incredibly reckless. I don’t see how you can fault the officer for thinking a kid running at him and raising his arm with a gun in his hand might be about to shoot him.