Family of an 18-year-old who pulled a replica handgun on officers inside a D.C. police station praised officers for not killing the man during the tense situation.
A plea deal for charges related to the incident may now be in the works for the student, D’Angelo Hamilton, who according to court documents had hoped officers would kill him during the incident.
“With all the pressure they are under right now, I thank the police officers for not killing him,” said Mr. Hamilton’s uncle Gregory Jones, who attended a Monday court hearing for his nephew.
The half dozen family members who attended the hearing in D.C. Superior Court were struggling to understand what had possessed the 18-year-old high school student to act out in such dramatic fashion.
“He has never done anything like this before,” Mr. Jones said.
In court documents, police said the incident started when Mr. Hamilton walked into the Metropolitan Police Department’s Fifth District station Thursday night and began smoking a cigarette inside, attracting the attention of two police officers. When officers approached Mr. Hamilton to escort him out of the station, he told one, “I’m not trying to kill you, brother man.”
Mr. Hamilton, of Northeast, then lifted his shirt and pulled what appeared to be a handgun from the waistband of his pants, according to court documents.
The two officers struggled with Mr. Hamilton and wrestled the gun away from him.
Only afterward did officers discover the handgun was actually a replica.
As officers escorted Mr. Hamilton to a holding cell he told them, “I wanted the police to kill me,” court documents state.
Prosecutors charged Mr. Hamilton with carjacking for the theft of a Mercedes Benz that police said he admitted to stealing earlier in the evening and used to drive himself to the police station.
A public defender representing Mr. Hamilton, Colle Jemibewon, asked in court Monday that her client’s preliminary hearing be continued as prosecutors were in the process of formulating a plea agreement in the case.
Mr. Hamilton’s actions take place at a time when tensions are running high nationally between police departments and the communities they serve. Officers have come under increased scrutiny for police-involved shootings and use of force, particularly incidents in which black men are killed by police officers, in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Meanwhile officers are wary of fatal attacks on police, which increased in 2014 over the prior year.
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund reported that 126 federal, state, local, tribal and territorial officers were killed in the line of duty last year.
It’s more difficult to determine how many fatal police shootings occurred over the same period, as no single agency tracks that information. Data self-reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation from police agencies puts the number of “justifiable homicides” by police at 461 for 2013. Independent efforts by journalists and other groups have put the number up over 700 using data available for just part of 2013.
The tense backdrop to his nephew’s actions was not lost on Mr. Jones and his family.
“We could be having a funeral,” he said.
Mr. Hamilton remains held without bond pending his preliminary hearing.
The incident took place just two days after a similar incident that raised security concerns at Baltimore police stations.
A man who entered a Baltimore city police station Tuesday with a gun told police he was instructed by leaders of the Black Guerrilla Family gang to test police security by trying to get the gun inside. Officers wrestled the loaded gun away from the man and he now faces charges from the incident. He was heading to the police station for a meeting with a probation agent, a practice that has been suspended since the incident, according to the Baltimore Sun.
D.C. police officials declined to say whether the incident at the Fifth District station had prompted any additional security or precautions. Spokesman Lt. Sean Conboy said the department “can’t discuss operational planning.”