A new report finds that although a police officer's fatal shooting of 18-year-old Deon Kay was justified, citing self-defense, it also says there were a series of missed opportunities before that moment that possibly could have led to a different outcome.
Kay was killed by a D.C. officer in September 2020 off of Orange Street SE, following a police pursuit.
The just-released analysis notes the 7th District Crime Suppression Team responded after seeing a live feed on Instagram showing four young men in a Dodge sedan with at least two weapons. One of those men was identified as Kay.
As officers closed in, Kay was among the suspects who fled on foot, and police say he had a weapon. As Kay neared Officer Alexander Alvarez, the officer reportedly turned and opened fire, all in a matter of seconds, recorded on body-worn camera.
Crisis management and consulting firm The Bromwich Group prepared the report with the Steptoe and Johnson law firm for the Office of the D.C. Auditor as part of a series of case studies on Metropolitan Police Department uses of force.
Among the report's findings:
- the 7th District Crime Suppression Team officers acted without a plan
- that any opportunity to de-escalate was "squandered"
- Officer Alvarez "unnecessarily placed himself in [the] situation" that led to Kay's death
The authors of the report uncovered that though the 7th District Crime Suppression Team often found leads on social media and community-based sources, that September day, the sergeant in charge had only limited discussions with higher-ups before leaving, and that, once on scene, officers made a series of errors, including running past the Dodge identified on social media.
Among its recommendations, the report calls for:
- better distinguishing the objectives of the Crime Suppression Team
- developing a defined police foot pursuit policy
- revising MPD's Use of Force Policy to be comprehensive for Internal Affairs investigations
- creating a policy on social media use in criminal investigations
The authors had real-time access to parts of MPD's internal investigation, including sitting in for witness interviews. The access was granted by Chief Robert Contee, his predecessor, Chief Peter Newsham, and department leadership.
We spoke with D.C. Auditor Kathy Patterson about the process.
"So, yes, that was very useful and was an opportunity to actually have conversation between our police consultants and the police department who are working on the investigation," Patterson said.
"So it was a kind of access that was probably unusual, but I think it served everyone well in terms of being able to have an extra set of eyes on what was taking place in the interview room," Patterson said.
The report authors note that Contee has pledged to adopt and implement many of the recommendations, with a target to do so by the end of the year.
Police released a statement saying, "The Metropolitan Police Department continues to extend our condolences to the family, friends and community who grieve the loss of Deon Kay. We recognize that as our country tackles the important issue of reimagining public safety, we must ensure that our policies and training continue to serve as models for de-escalating situations and promoting the sanctity of human life. As a progressive police department committed to fair and constitutional policing, we remain open to examining and improving our policies and training to ensure that deadly force is used only as a last resort. Accordingly, we appreciate the recommendations outlined in the report and the Auditor's diligent review of this case."