An off-duty Pentagon police officer fatally shot two men he thought were breaking into a car in the parking lot of a Maryland condominium complex on Wednesday morning, authorities said.
The officer, a member of the Pentagon Force Protection Agency, opened fire outside the Takoma Overlook Condominiums in Takoma Park shortly after 5 a.m., according to police.
He “engaged” the men “who failed to follow his direction,” before shooting at them when they tried to flee in a car, according to a press release from the Takoma Park Police Department.
Both men were taken to an area hospital, where they died. Police on Thursday identified them as Dominique Williams, 32, and 38-year-old James Johnson.
The Pentagon officer told investigators he thought there was a gun the men’s getaway vehicle, a source told The Washington Post.
The officer has since been placed on administrative leave, the newspaper reported.
Johnson’s aunt, Denise Johnson, condemned the shooting.
“It’s wrong how he got killed,” she told the newspaper. “I’m just heartbroken about what happened.”
Local community activists are calling on Takoma Park Police to release dispatch calls and body camera footage from responding officers.
“This was a wrongful shooting,” Seth Grimes, an activist with the Silver Spring Justice Coalition, told WJLA.
“This is not someone who has been trained to handle interactions with community members. But this case illustrates why we need transparency [and] use of force rules governing police officers.”