The Washington Times

May 6, 1991, Monday, Final Edition

Shooting by police ignites violence in Mount Pleasant

SECTION: Part A; Pg. A1

LENGTH: 791 words

BYLINE: Mark Vane; The Washington Times

Hundreds of chanting, rock-throwing people took over the streets of Mount Pleasant last night after a Metropolitan Police officer shot an unidentified man in the chest during an arrest.

At least 10 officers were injured, including one who was in critical condition after being stabbed in the upper torso.

Members of the crowd, who were throwing bottles and bricks, breaking out car windows and setting fires in the streets around 17th and Lamont streets NW where the shooting took place. Several were arrested.

The largely Hispanic crowd chanted, "Justicia," or justice, as the protest grew.

Protesters destroyed several police vehicles, including three that were set on fire during the disturbance, which appeared to be growing after two hours.

Most of merchants in the area quickly closed up shops and drew bars across their windows as the disturbance escalated.

The melee began about 7:30 last night when when a female officer shot a man she was arresting for apparently drinking in public. The man, who appeared to be a Hispanic in his mid-30s, drew a knife and was critically injured by the officer, police said.

The incident drew scores of spectators, and about an hour later, the crowd had swelled to several hundred.

By 11 p.m., police said the disturbance was quieting. But looting was reported about 30 minutes later in the 3100 block of Mount Pleasant Street. Looters busted the windows of a convenience store and were stealing cash and merchandise.

Police called in members of the civil disturbance unit and used tear gas to try to quiet the mob.

By midnight, the crowd had broken into small knots that were lining the streets and keeping wary eyes on police.

Witnesses said the shooting victim was hit at point-blank range in the chest as he staggered toward a female officer with his hand raised, holding a 3- to 4-inch knife.

Police said the officer, who is black, is a recent graduate of the Police Academy.

"It looked like they [police] should have been able to handle it," said Patrick McCade, 26, who was on his porch near 17th and Lamont streets NW when the shooting took place.

Mr. McCade said several officers had a man down on the ground in front of Don Juan's carryout and were beating and kicking him when the victim staggered slowly toward them.

The female officer, who was not identified last night, turned and saw the man and shot him in the chest, according to witnesses. It was unclear if she ordered him to stop before shooting.

"She was standing there like she's freaking out," Mr. McCade said of the officer after the shooting.

Witnesses said the victim appeared to have a handcuff on one wrist, sparking rumors among residents that the man had been shot while handcuffed.

Police spokesman Reginald Smith said the man was not handcuffed until after he was shot.

Lt. Smith described the melee as an "outcry" of the shooting than grew unmanageable. "This began breaking," he said. "We tried to control it and manage it as best we can. But the crowd began to grow."

Police called for all available officers for reinforcement as the crowd got larger and rowdier. The mob eventually took over 16th Street, knocking out car windows, throwing bricks and rocks and setting fires in the street.

Within two hours, the crowd tipped over two police cars and appeared to have set at least three on fire. The air was thick with the smell of burning rubber and black smoke.

Any car that entered the area was stopped and rocked by the crowd. Police eventually closed off streets in an eight-block area around 16th Street NW and were trying to regain control of the cordoned-off section. Fire trucks were unable to get to the scene because of the crowds.

Several hours after the disturbance began, witnesses said the crowd the had grown close to 1,000, with many people there just to watch.

One resident who witnessed the arrest said the violence erupted because "all they wanted to know was what's going on, and nobody told them anything."

"The whole neighborhood's here now," she said. "What are these guys [police] going to do now?"

An officer who has patrolled Adams Morgan and Mount Pleasant neighborhoods for more than 20 years said he had never witnessed such an outbreak.

"I haven't seen this kind of collective anger," Officer Daniel Flores said. "They [Hispanic immigrants] come over here with a lot of hostilities against the military where they come from, so they resist any authority figures here."

"I think we'll have a little more activity tomorrow. These things always last three or four days, five days."

* Gary Fields and Sonsyrea Tate contributed to this report.

GRAPHIC: Photo, Metropolitan Police officers move up 16th Street NW past burning vehicles, some of them police cars, toward the rampaging crowd last night., By Tracy A. Woodward/The Washington Times