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An officer with the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., shot and killed a young Black man on Wednesday in an incident that triggered protests and was partially caught on bodycam video.
The fatal encounter began when law enforcement responded to a “report of an unconscious person inside a vehicle occupying a traffic lane” just before 3 a.m. Wednesday, the police department said, finding 27-year-old Antwan Gilmore passed out with his foot still on the brake pedal of his running car. A handgun was visible in his waistband, police said.
More cops were called to the scene, and at least one pulled out a ballistic shield, according to the press release.
Bodycam video shows that one of the responding officers went up to the vehicle and said, “He’s waking up, he’s waking up.” The inside of the car isn’t visible on that footage, nor is Gilmore himself. Police said that Gilmore “reacted” to officers trying to engage with him and moved his car forward. Officers commanded him to stop, and police say Gilmore complied.
But then the vehicle “proceeded forward,” and, for reasons that are still unclear, a cop shot at it several times, hitting Gilmore. After the vehicle crashed and first responders attempted to render lifesaving aid, Gilmore was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
Generally, officers in D.C. aren’t supposed to fire at moving vehicles, according to the Washington Post. Police have promised a thorough investigation into the killing and the officers involved have been placed on administrative leave, the Post reported.
“I offer the deepest sympathies and condolences to the family,” Police Chief Robert Contee said at a press conference Thursday, according to DCist. “Unfortunately, sometimes as a result of our duties, we are required to use force … but in those instances, we must be committed to transparency.”
While the MPD said in a press release that they recovered a firearm from “the suspect,” they didn’t indicate that Gilmore ever touched the weapon while police were interacting with him; the gun was still on the right side of Gilmore’s waistband when his vehicle crashed, according to the Post.
Contee said Gilmore wasn’t registered to own a gun and that he was wanted on an arrest warrant stemming from a firearms discharge, though the officers who responded to Gilmore Wednesday morning allegedly didn’t know about that, the Post additionally reported.
Critics have said that police have shown they’re capable of responding to armed or potentially dangerous people with more care, though, and that officers reacted with unnecessary aggression in this case.
“Sitting here trying to figure out how law enforcement can successfully deescalate a white domestic terrorist in a truck threatening to blow up the Capitol with a bomb but not a Black man who fell asleep in his car?” Ward 4 Councilmember Janeese Lewis George said in a tweet Wednesday, referring to the recent arrest of Floyd Ray Roseberry, which NPR reported took hours of negotiating and at least three law enforcement agencies after Roseberry said he had a bomb in his truck.
A petition sponsored by Black Lives Matter D.C. is now demanding that city officials fire all responding officers and release all bodycam footage, among other requests.
“As more information comes out, we know that this killing by DC Police is the result of failed public policy to protect DC residents from a violent white supremacist institution, and the endless repression of people barely surviving on our streets,” the petition states. “We know what it takes to keep people safe, and it takes putting resources in the hands of marginalized people across DC.”
The Metropolitan Police Department did not immediately respond to VICE News’ request for comment.