Washington DC

DC Police ID Man Killed at Homeless Encampment, Clear Out Tents

Washington, D.C.'s deputy mayor for public safety said the city was already working to move the people living in the tents at Thomas Circle before the shooting happened

NBC Washington

Police in Washington, D.C., have named the man who was found shot and killed inside a tent at a homeless encampment downtown.

Emmanuel Lys, 32, died inside the tent just before 10 a.m. Monday, police said.

Officers found a handgun on the sidewalk nearby, police said.

Currently, police have classified the case as a death investigation and said they are still waiting for the medical examiner's ruling on whether it was an accident, a homicide or a suicide, Metropolitan Police Department Third District Cmdr. James Boteler said during a virtual community meeting about the shooting on Wednesday evening.

Police have identified a person of interest, but do not feel the person poses a threat to the community, Boteler said.

"I don’t think this was somebody that was targeting homeless people, but ... motive is still unclear, and we need to find this person of interest," Deputy Mayor of Public Safety Chris Geldart told News4 on Tuesday.

Crime has been a rising problem at Thomas Circle, police said. Police commanders at Wednesday's meeting attributed the high crime to the now-cleared homeless encampments, which were set up on either side of Thomas Circle for months.

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In the 180 days before the shooting, officers made 35 arrests in Thomas Circle, many of them for firearms and drug offenses, according to police. Police said there's also been a steady increase in violent crime in the area.

Immediately after the shooting, D.C. officials ordered both of the encampments to be cleared out.

D.C. law requires prior notice be posted 14 days before encampments are cleared unless there is an immediate threat to public safety.

Geldart said the city was already trying to move some of the people living in the tents before the shooting.

"When we had this violent act, kind of a last straw of ... You know, people deserve housing. They should be in housing. And when we can afford it, when we can be able to do that, then we should do that -- and that's what we were able to do yesterday," Geldart said on Tuesday.

However, the city didn't move to immediately clear the tents in March, when a suspect targeted homeless men in D.C. and New York. One man was found dead inside a burning tent in Northeast D.C.

"It's very hard to do an immediate disposition when you have 20, 30, 40 people in an encampment. New Jersey and O is an example of that, where we had a fire, where we had some violent acts. When you have that many folks there, to try to do immediate disposition - very difficult," Geldart said.

He said city employees offered everyone who was living in the tents shelter and services.

Officials have designated Thomas Circle a "no camping area," allowing authorities to remove any tents that might return.

D.C. police have not released a name or photo of the person of interest in the shooting.

Law enforcement sources told News4 that Lys had been on the run since he was named in an indictment involving drug trafficking charges in November 2021. Sources say authorities don't believe the indictment is connected to his shooting.

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