By Jason Ajiake, News Staff Columnist
Posted 11:15 AM EST, Tues., Sept. 27, 2016
A D.C. police officer fatally shot a man after he allegedly rammed his motorcycle into the police cruiser. According to the Metropolitan Police Department, 31-year-old Terrence Sterling was recklessly driving his motorcycle at 4:30 a.m. when he was stopped by an unidentified officer at 3rd and M Streets that Sunday morning, on September 11.
“When the officer was exiting the passenger side of his marked police cruiser to stop the driver, the motorcyclist intentionally drove into the passenger door and the officer fired his service weapon,” according to the MPD.
Contrary to the police report, nearby driver and eyewitness, Kandace Simms, believed the collision was unavoidable.
“I pulled up to the light, and was there by myself for some time as some cars were coming behind me,” Simms said. “I saw a motorcycle come on the left of me and then the police car blocked the motorcycle, so they kind of came at the same exact time.”
Several other witnesses also reported that the collision was unintentional, yet unavoidable as the officer did not verbally respond to the incident, but instead rolled down his window and fired two shots at Sterling.
“Sterling attempted to flee and ended up striking the police car. At that point, shots were fired,” Metropolitian Police Assistant Chief Peter Newsham told reporters.
The officer involved did not activate his body camera until after the incident had already occurred, raising questions about the validity of this account.
According to MPD policy, officers are required to start recording at the beginning of police initiated engagement and vehicle pursuits, as D.C. law states that the intent of the body camera program is to promote transparency and accountability.
“In the case of Mr. Sterling’s death, we have neither,” reported by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of the Nation’s Capital. “This lack of accountability worsens the schism between communities of color and the officers sworn to serve them, and ultimately puts all our lives and livelihoods in danger.”
According to a police report, no weapon was recovered from the scene and police have not said they recovered one. Sterling was soon transported to Howard University Hospital where he was immediately pronounced dead.
On Friday, September 16, a large crowd gathered in Fort Washington to celebrate the life of Terrence Sterling, where friends struggled to understand how something so tragic could have happened to someone like him, who was known for his loving personality. Although his family was not in attendance, they did speak to their pastor.
“Their focus is on getting their son buried, and then they’re going to take it from there,” said Nelson White, a pastor of House of Hope Praise Ministries. “They want justice to be served because, at the end of the day, it was just a tough situation for everybody involved. We’ve got some questions and we want answers.”
Both the Metropolitan Police Department and the U.S. Attorney’s office have opened up investigations. In the meantime, the unidentified officer has been put on administrative leave. Local officials have asked witnesses to call 202-727-9099 with any information regarding the incident.