Memorial to James L. Gordon

End of Watch: December 14, 1987
Rank: Officer Badge No. N/A
Age: 43  Years of Service: 18 years
Location of Death:  Prince George’s County, Maryland
Duty Assignment: N/A



While in an off-duty capacity, Officer James Gordon returned to his residence in Maryland where he found an open window to his home. Suspecting a burglary, Officer Gordon entered his home with his weapon drawn. A neighbor, seeing a man enter the residence, called the police. Upon the arrival of the police, a Prince Georges County officer observed a man with a gun inside the residence. He ordered the man (later identified as Officer Gordon) to drop the weapon. As Officer Gordon turned with his gun in his hand, the Prince Georges County officer fired his service weapon, striking and fatally wounding Officer Gordon.



Officer James L. Gordon had been a member of the Department for 18 years. He had one child at the time of his death.

Articles from the Washington Post – transcribed by Dave Richardson, MPD/Ret.
A D.C. police officer was shot and killed in his house in Largo last night by a Prince George’s County officer responding to a call for a burglary in an incident that county police described as a tragedy.

County police said that when the Prince George’s officer, Cpl. Robert W. Raymond, 27, arrived at 10612 Mount Lubentia Way about 6:30 p.m., he saw a man inside with a gun in his hand and identified himself as an officer.

At that point, county police said, the man turned and pointed the gun at Raymond, who fired a shot, striking the man in the chest.

D.C. police identified the dead man as James L. Gordon, 41, of the 5th Police District, who had worked as a uniformed officer for 17 years or more and had recently been assigned to operate a motor scooter in a tactical unit.

County police released details of the incident early today after a period in which they said they interviewed about 40 witnesses, although none saw the shooting. In addition, they apparently studied tape recordings of police calls made around the time of the shooting.

“We have a tragedy here and we’re trying to deal with it the best we can,” county police spokesman Jack San Felice told reporters shortly before a 2 a.m. news conference.

He said Raymond, a six-year veteran of the force, was placed in routine administrative leave with pay pending review by the police department and the county state’s attorney’s office.

County police said that there had been 22 burglaries in the slain officer’s neighborhood in the last two weeks.

They said they found signs that a back window of Gordon’s house had been pried open. However it was not immediately clear whether a burglar had entered or had made an unsuccessful attempt. The call to the county’s emergency 911 line that brought Raymond to the house came from a neighbor who had seen someone attempting to enter the window, county police said.

After Raymond arrived, county police said, he called for help, but the shooting occurred before other officers arrived.
Few details of the incident were available for hours after the shooting, and District police officials were described in the interim as disturbed over the lack of information.

People living in the slain officer’s neighborhood told reporters that they knew little about the shooting. One neighbor reported hearing what he said was a single shot.

Mount Lubentia Way is just south of Prince George’s Community College a mile east of the Capital Beltway.

Prince George’s County police officials spent yesterday defending their handling of an incident Monday night in which, they said, an officer shot and killed an apparent burglary suspect who turned out to be a D.C. police officer.

Witnesses said the men arrived at the house within minutes of one another. Both apparently saw the same evidence of a break-in: a broken window. Both drew their service revolvers-the D.C. officer, who arrived first, inside his house; the Prince George’s officer on the outside.

As the outside officer played his flashlight across the back yard, the man inside moved to the window, a county police spokesman said. Seeing the movement, the Prince George’s officer moved to the window and called out “freeze” to the man inside, then fired one shot from seven feet away, according to the county police account. Inside, the D.C. officer lay dead or dying, shot in the chest.

The harshest criticism of the tragic circumstances came yesterday from D.C. police officers, who abandoned the usual protocol of mutual respect and in numerous conversations with reporters asked for anonymity and accused Prince George’s officials of “highly irregular” delays in allowing paramedics to treat the victim. They also said Prince George’s County failed to cooperate with District officers quickly.

“The whole thing was mishandled,” said a high-ranking D.C. police official who asked not to be identified.
D.C. police Officer James L. Gordon, 41, who had worked as a uniformed officer for 17 years, was shot once in the chest at 6:38 p.m. as he stood in the family room of his house at 10612 Mount Lubentia Way. He was shot by Prince George’s County police Cpl. Robert W. Raimond, 27. The D.C. residency requirement did not affect Gordon, who was a member of the D.C. police department before the residency requirement was enacted.

The shooting is being investigated by Prince George’s County police. D.C. Police Chief Maurice T. Turner Jr. had several discussions about the investigation with Prince George’s County Police Chief Michael J. Flaherty yesterday, sources said.
Some D.C. police officers, however, called for an independent board to investigate the incident and expressed skepticism about the ability of Prince George’s County police to conduct an objective investigation.

About two minutes after the shooting, an ambulance from the nearby Kentland Volunteer Fire Department was sent to Gordon’s home and arrived within a few minutes, a fire department spokesman said.

But the ambulance crew was not immediately allowed inside the house, county police said, because officers were unsure whether there were any other armed suspects in the house. An officer with a police dog went inside the two-story home first.

“We had no idea who else was inside,” said Cpl. Bruce Gentile, a Pr. George’s county police spokesman. “We were not going to allow paramedics inside without being sure. This is standard police procedure.”

But D.C. police officials strongly disagreed with county police on that point, saying that their officers would not have turned the paramedics away for any reason. “The first commitment we have is to save an injured person,” said one D.C. police official.

According to a D.C. investigative report, two paramedics and two firefighters were prevented from administering care to Gordon.

Only minutes before, according to the D.C. police report, Raimond had radioed to police that “the suspect is still on the floor with gun . . . . He is injured but still alive.”

The state pathologist who performed an autopsy on Gordon said that any delay would not have made a difference to the officer’s survival. “The damage to the heart was such that there was no chance that he would have survived,” Dr. Julia Gordin said.

At an early-morning news conference, a Prince George’s police spokesman had said that Gordon was given “immediate medical assistance.”

Yesterday, police spokesman Robert Law said Gordon was given medical assistance “as quickly as we could get it safely to him.” Law said the earlier statement resulted from the release of information before the preliminary investigation was complete.

Five D.C. police officers, including a homicide lieutenant and a district commander, also were turned away from Gordon’s home after the shooting, District officers said, complaining that they were not notified about the incident for several hours.
County police officials said that D.C. police were not allowed to remain at the crime scene after Gordon’s body was identified because technicians were still gathering evidence. “Not even our chief would have been allowed to stay there until we were finished gathering evidence,” said Gentile, a county police spokesman.

Gordon was shot after the Prince George’s County officer responded to a call about a burglary in a neighborhood where authorities said 22 burglaries had been reported in the past two weeks. According to the D.C. police report of the investigation, a neighbor called Prince George’s County police at 6:29 p.m. to report a burglary at Gordon’s home. Gordon apparently had returned to his home and was investigating the break-in himself when Raimond arrived.

At 6:35 p.m., Raimond radioed to police that he was on the scene. Five minutes later, Raimond radioed, “One suspect shot by me.” One minute later, he reported that the suspect was still on the floor, but was still alive, according to the report.
A neighbor, Mark Spriggs, a 26-year-old Army sergeant home for the holidays, said he watched from his kitchen window as Raimond got out of his cruiser, walked to the home’s rear right corner and began “peeking around from the corner and then pointing his flashlight into the basement entrance.”

As Raimond walked toward the family room window, Spriggs said, “He apparently saw someone inside the house.” At that point, Prince George’s police said, Raimond “identified himself as a police officer and ordered what appeared to be an armed burglary suspect to drop the gun.”

But Spriggs said, “All I heard was {Raimond} yell `Freeze.’ “When Raimond called out, Spriggs said, the man inside the house raised his hands as if he were holding a weapon. That is when Gordon was shot.

About 11:40 p.m., three D.C. homicide detectives went to Gordon’s home, but were ordered to leave the scene by a Prince

George’s uniformed captain, according to the D.C. police report.
Raimond, a uniformed officer assigned to the county’s Bowie District, has been placed on routine administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of the internal investigation into the shooting.

Police described Raimond as a “good cop” who had earned 15 commendations during his six years with the force.
Raimond has been the subject of two complaints about police brutality, but was cleared by a police trial board both times. In October, a federal jury in Baltimore awarded $4,400 to a Riverdale man who had said that Raimond used unnecessary force and violated his civil rights during a traffic stop in March 1984.

Gordon’s colleagues yesterday described him as “a very steady and stable person” and a “solid police officer.”
“He was a great guy,” said Paul Wyland, an officer at the 5th Police District. “I worked with him for quite a few years, and he was one of the more dependable officers. He was a good policeman.”

D.C. police officials yesterday also questioned why five District officers-including the commander of the 5th Police District and three homicide detectives-were not allowed to remain in Gordon’s home during the investigation.

“This was highly irregular,” said a D.C. police official. “We never turn away an investigator from another police unit. We automatically assist them, and provide them with information. These were ranking D.C. police officials who were turned away.”

Raimond was dispatched to the Largo neighborhood off of Largo Road near the Capital Centre after a neighbor of Gordon’s saw a person trying to break into Gordon’s house through a rear window, county police said

Dawn Gordon was so looking forward to Christmas. The 11-year-old excitedly wrote her father a letter preparing him for her visit from Charlotte, N.C.
“Dear Dad,” Dawn wrote a few weeks ago, ” . . . the thing that I really want is a black Baby Heather doll. She has a 400-word vocabulary . . . and when she gets two years old she can stand up on her feet. When she hears you talking to her she will turn her head and look and you and she says let’s play.”

At James L. Gordon’s house in Largo yesterday, the plans of Christmas faded. Instead, relatives and his ex-wife Marseeiah Gordon-Carter gathered around the kitchen table to make arrangements for his funeral Saturday.

In the next room was the harsh reminder of why they were all there. A jagged chunk was cut out of the light-gray carpet near record albums stacked in front of the fireplace. Police investigators had ripped out the blood-soaked piece of carpet where Gordon lay dying only 48 hours before.

Gordon, 40, a D.C. police officer for 17 years, was fatally shot in his Largo house Monday night by a Prince George’s County police officer, Cpl. Robert W. Raimond, 27, who was responding to a neighbor’s report of a burglary there.

Gordon apparently arrived home, not knowing about the neighbor’s call, about the same time Raimond arrived outside to investigate the alleged burglary. Seeing the movement of a figure with a gun inside, Raimond called out “freeze,” then fired one shot. Gordon was struck in the chest from seven feet away, according to county police.

“They didn’t have to kill him,” said a tearful Glenda Costner, Gordon’s cousin. “They could have shot to impair him. That officer didn’t even identify himself, from what I’ve heard.”

Gordon-or Lornell, his middle name, which his family uses-was born and reared in Gastonia, N.C. He moved to Washington about 22 years ago, and after serving in the Army for about two years, he joined the D.C. police force.
“Lornell loved being a police officer,” said his older sister Brenda, who lives in Lowell, N.C. Gordon also served in the Army reserve.

Gordon and his wife divorced four years ago, and she moved to Charlotte with their daughter Dawn. “Although our marriage didn’t work, we parted as friends, and he was a special kind of person to me,” Gordon-Carter said.

“We communicated on a regular basis, and he was an excellent father to Dawn,” she said. “He gave her a lot of love. He told me that I didn’t have to worry because she wouldn’t want for anything. He spoiled her.”

Gordon and his sister Angelita had just moved into the two-story white house in the Kings Creek development off Landover Road in July. A recent promotion also had afforded Gordon the silver-gray Mercedes-Benz in his two-car garage, she said.
“He liked nice things,” said Angelita Gordon. “He wanted to live in a nice neighborhood. He was always a nice dresser.”
Gordon’s relatives painted him as a gentle and relaxed man who liked to play golf in his spare time and sing with Dawn. But they also said that, as a trained police officer, he was “very aware and alert” of everything around him.

“His adrenaline was probably going” Monday night, Costner said. “He probably thought that whoever was crazy enough to break into his home was still on the premises.

“It hurts. He was a great guy. I just can’t believe he’s gone.”

Prince George’s County Police Chief Michael J. Flaherty issued a point-by-point response last night to a storm of criticism that has struck his department after the fatal shooting Monday night of a D.C. police officer by a Prince George’s officer.
The response was contained in a five-page letter sent to D.C. Police Chief Maurice T. Turner Jr. that refers to the incident several times as “tragic” and “a tragedy.” The letter was simultaneously released to the press. An aide to Turner said he had not read the letter last night.

In it, Flaherty said that although the D.C. chief “appeared to be satisfied with the facts provided you, it appears that the information is not getting down to the rank and file, and possibly some of your unnamed officials and police officers who are making erroneous statements to the news media.”

One anonymous D.C. officer was quoted yesterday as saying the entire incident was “mishandled.” Aides to Flaherty said he was particularly distressed by a graphic appearing as a backdrop to a television news broadcast suggesting the possibility of a “cover-up.”

The letter to Chief Turner set out to detail five “issues” raised in the fatal shooting of D.C. Officer James L. Gordon, 40, who was killed at his home in Largo by county police Cpl. Robert W. Raimond, 27, who was answering a burglary call.

County police have said that the area had been plagued by burglaries recently and Raimond, after finding evidence of a break-in, saw an armed man through the window of a lighted family room. Raimond ordered the man, who he thought to be a burglar, to “freeze,” then fired when the man raised his hands as if he were holding a weapon, county police said.
Officer Raimond has been placed on administrative leave with pay pending a review by Prince George’s police and the county prosecutor.

One concern raised by D.C. police personnel, who declined to be identified, was that two paramedics who arrived with an ambulance were prevented from administering care to Gordon.

In his letter, Flaherty said under the heading “Response by Ambulance and Paramedic Personnel,” that an ambulance arrived 13 minutes after being requested.

After the house was searched, the paramedics were advised “to disregard,” the letter continues, adding: “The investigating detective, a 15-year veteran of the Homicide Unit, checked the body and advised no need for paramedics.”
On the question of whether medical treatment was provided “in timely fashion,” the letter says that “the bullet caused severe trauma to the heart” and an assistant medical examiner said that “even if a doctor had been present, Officer Gordon could not have been saved.”

Responding to complaints that notification of D.C. police officials was tardy and that they had been prevented from entering Gordon’s house, the letter gives a chronology of events and says:

“In summary . . . at no time were any metropolitan police officials turned away from the scene or denied any information regarding this incident.”

The letter goes on to cite “witnesses’ observations at the scene,” saying that three persons heard yelling or voices, and one heard the words: “Police, Freeze” and saw “Officer Gordon turn toward Cpl. Raimond raising his weapon in a shooting position.”

The letter also cites a visit that Flaherty, two other county police officials and two police chaplains made Tuesday to extend condolences to Gordon’s sister, who lived with her brother. “I also offered her assistance with transportation, securing her home and any other assistance the county police could provide,” Flaherty said in his letter.

Then, the letter notes that Flaherty met with a deputy D.C. police chief at the 5th District station where Gordon had been based.

“Once again we sincerely regret the occurrence of this tragic chain of events. If you or any of your officers have a specific complaint I will have it looked into, however, I do feel that these clarifications will assist in providing a greater understanding of this unfortunate tragedy,” the letter concludes.

Prince George’s State’s Attorney Alex Williams, who was said to be “visibly disturbed” by the shooting, was briefed by police investigators yesterday and promised a thorough and critical investigation. The prosecutor will review the written police report and determine whether the shooting was justified, and then submit the information to a grand jury.

Also yesterday, Prince George’s officials said they had evidence that a burglary had taken place at Gordon’s house before the shooting. They said a television set and a videocassette recorder had been taken from the house, but added that they still had no suspects.

Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Alex Williams announced yesterday the appointment of an independent investigator to look into Monday night’s shooting death of a D.C. police officer in his Largo home by a Prince George’s policeman.

Williams said he found it necessary to embark on a more detailed investigation because this incident had become “very, very controversial. A lot of emotion is running on both sides.”

Specifically, Williams said he wanted to avoid any appearance of a cover-up and to deal with questions about how the race of the two officers might have affected their actions.

“Some people believed that it is a black and white issue,” Williams said after a news conference. Many people have contacted Williams, the prosecutor said, to express concern that the shooting “involved another county police officer . . . and a black man was dead.”

To lead the investigation Williams named a longtime investigator for the state’s attorney office, Alonzo Black, 42. Black in 1967 became one of the first black police officers in Prince George’s County.
Black, a lawyer, will review police reports and conduct his own inquiry into the shooting death of D.C. Officer James L. Gordon, 41, by Prince George’s police Cpl. Robert W. Raimond, 27.

Gordon, who was black, was in his Largo home investigating a burglary when Raimond, who is white, arrived after being dispatched on a burglary report.

Neither officer apparently knew the other was at the scene. Raimond was outside the house when he saw an armed man through a window. Mistaking him for a burglar, Raimond called out for him to freeze, according to a witness quoted by Prince George’s police. The witness said Gordon turned and raised his hands in a shooting position, and Raimond shot him once in the chest.

Williams said yesterday that Black will “conduct a thorough and full investigation to determine whether criminal responsibility of any persons are warranted under the circumstances of this incident.”

Black will be “exploring every concern, every issue and all relevant facts surrounding this matter,” Williams said.
Earlier in the week, Williams proposed that members of the Prince George’s County police, the D.C. police, and his office form an independent task force to investigate the shooting, he said yesterday. According to Williams, county police Chief Michael J. Flaherty declined the invitation but promised to cooperate with Williams’ office in their investigation. Williams said D.C. Police Chief Maurice T. Turner Jr. didn’t respond to his proposal.

The two police chiefs met yesterday afternoon to discuss the Williams announcement. Afterward, a spokesman for Turner said the D.C. chief would make no further comments on the shooting until the investigation by Prince George’s County police is completed.

In a 2 1/2-page statement released last night, Flaherty said, “We welcome Mr. Williams’ review.” He said “the police investigation will stand on its own merits. A thorough investigation has taken place and is continuing. There is nothing to hide so the review will only confirm the facts that our investigators have brought forth.”

Flaherty, who admitted he is “concerned about the rumors and innuendos circulating within the {D.C.} Police Department and the community,” denied that his department failed to keep those involved briefed. In his statement, Flaherty detailed meetings he had this week with D.C. police officials, Gordon’s family and union leaders from both police departments.
In recent days, Williams said he had received dozens of telephone calls that he described as “grumblings from Prince George’s rank and file and from D.C. rank and file and citizens.”

Williams acknowledged that he, too, was concerned: “There was some concern that I have in my mind. I want some facts.”
Relations between the two police departments have been strained since the shooting, with D.C. officers questioning both Raimond’s conduct and the Prince George’s police investigation that followed.

Williams said questions have been raised about whether Gordon was warned properly by Raimond, whether prompt medical attention was administered and about when D.C. police officials were informed and allowed access to the shooting scene.

“Allegations have been made and they have been brought to my attention,” Williams said. “I don’t know to what extent those discrepancies go, but I would like those with discrepancies to come forward.”

Black has been relieved of all other investigative duties so he can concentrate solely on this case, Williams said. Otherwise, Black’s task will differ little from the state’s attorney’s usual investigations of police shootings.
He will review the autopsy report and all police reports of the shooting, visit the scene, speak to all witnesses, and meet with both police departments, Williams said.

Black’s duty will be to “inquire into the nature, extent and impact of alleged delays in notice, and to inquire into the alleged inaccessibility of paramedics,” Williams said.

When Black completes his probe, the results will be presented to a grand jury. Williams, declining to estimate how long the investigation will take, said he has not decided whether to seek a special grand jury for the case.

Hundreds of law enforcement officers gathered yesterday for the funeral of a D.C. police officer who was killed by a Prince George’s County officer last week, and heard police officials and clergymen speak words meant to soothe a grieving family and heal the wounds of a fractured police fraternity.

The body of Officer James L. Gordon, 40, lay in a flag-draped coffin surrounded by sprays of flowers at the base of the pulpit at the Metropolitan AME Church on M Street NW.

So emotional was the scene that even as the funeral began, his daughter, 11-year-old Dawn Gordon, wept aloud and, with adult arms around her, was led out of the sanctuary.

D.C. Police Chief Maurice T. Turner Jr. offered tributes to Gordon, calling the 17-year police veteran a courageous, caring and dedicated officer.

Then Turner addressed the question that has hung like a dark cloud over the D.C. and Prince George’s police departments since Cpl. Robert W. Raimond, investigating a Monday night report of a burglary in Gordon’s Largo house, apparently mistook the D.C. officer for an armed burglar and shot him.
“One asks oneself how can this be? But as much as we ask ourselves, we cannot find the answers,” Turner said.
Deputy Chief Addison L. Davis followed Turner to the pulpit and, at times pausing as if to choke back tears, admonished the mourners to remember that, like any other family, the police family will have disagreements.

“I want everybody to know that Jimmy, when he became a law enforcement officer, joined a special family . . . . Society cannot survive without us. We can’t survive without each other,” Davis said.

“Also, don’t forget about our other brother, Corporal Raimond. He shares in this tragedy.”

Many officers dabbed their eyes as Davis spoke.
When he completed his remarks, the police choir, the Ambassadors of Goodwill, sang “Amazing Grace.” As the singers reached a crescendo in the line “I once was lost but now am found,” a woman’s voice shrieked with grief.

Since Gordon’s death, emotions among members of the two departments from neighboring jurisdictions have run high and relations have been strained.

Some D.C. officers have questioned Raimond’s conduct and the Prince George’s investigation that followed.
Questions have been raised about whether Gordon was warned properly by Raimond, whether prompt medical attention was administered and when D.C. police officials were informed and allowed access to the shooting scene.

Suggestions of racism also have tinged the shooting’s aftermath. Gordon was black; Raimond is white. Raimond has been placed on administrative leave with pay pending a review by Prince George’s police and by an independent investigator appointed by the county state’s attorney.

A contingent of Prince George’s County officers, led by Chief Michael J. Flaherty, attended the funeral.
Turner, who last week received a point-by-point response from Flaherty to the criticisms surrounding Gordon’s death, said afterward that the Prince George’s presence at the funeral “exemplifies, to a large degree, the fraternity of law enforcement officers. This was an unfortunate tragedy and we’re all at a loss to explain” why it happened.

Scores of officers from other departments also attended, including Montgomery County, Fairfax County, Alexandria, Baltimore City, Maryland State Police, and the Army, Secret Service, Park Police and Capitol Police.

The Rev. Ernest B. Cunningham, D.C. police chaplain, urged them all not only to seek understanding about Gordon’s death, but also to take stock.
“We live out our lives in the presence of mystery,” he said.

The D.C. police honor guard led the procession out of the sanctuary, and officers in crisp uniforms-some blue, gray or military green-filled M Street. All stood at attention, hands raised in salute, as the casket was carried out and placed into a royal blue hearse.

A procession of nearly 60 official cars and 120 civilian vehicles wound its way through the streets to Harmony Memorial Park in Prince George’s County.

The procession took a short, special detour to drive down Bladensburg Road, where half a dozen officers stood at attention in front of the 5th District station house where Gordon was assigned.

Once in Maryland, county police officers blocked off intersections and stood stiffly at their cruisers, while motorists, some with Christmas trees tied to their car roofs, waited patiently on the shoulder of the road.

As Cunningham read from the Bible, Gordon’s casket was carried to a grave amid muffled sounds from a police scanner that echoed from a clump of blue uniforms pressed shoulder to shoulder.

A detachment from the Army’s Old Guard unit based at Fort Myer fired a 21-gun salute.
Gordon had reenlisted for three more years in the Army Reserve in a ceremony last Sunday, said Sgt. 1st Class Lynn Hill, Gordon’s friend and Army supervisor in the training unit of the 80th Division’s Heavy Weapon Committee.

When the graveside service ended, a few D.C. police officers walked past officers from Prince George’s County but many others stopped to mingle, shake hands and talk briefly with county police.

County Chief Flaherty and D.C. Chief Turner walked together by themselves for about 50 yards, smiled and chatted. The pair appeared to show a genuine and friendly bond that seemed to have survived a monumental testing last week.
As Turner slowed to get into his car, he turned to Flaherty and said: “This is unfortunate, man. If you need anything, holler.”

Later, Flaherty said that he would make a statement about the shooting investigation “in several days” and that he and Turner were on good terms.

“Maurice and I have no problems. We get along very well,” Flaherty said. “We know what happened.”

In the last five weeks, from Fairfax County to the Maryland suburbs, law enforcement officers have shot and killed six persons who apparently had threatened the lives of the officers or bystanders.

 In one case, a Southwest Washington man wounded two D.C. police officers before he was killed. In a Fairfax County shooting, the victim was unarmed. Another one, in Wheaton, allegedly turned on an officer with a baseball bat. A fourth victim, this one in Gaithersburg, threatened an officer with a flashlight. An irate driver on a Capital Beltway ramp in

Montgomery County, the fifth shooting victim, was armed with a six-inch hunting knife.

And the latest victim, an off-duty D.C. officer walking through his Largo house, was fatally wounded when he allegedly pointed a gun at a Prince George’s County officer investigating a burglary report.

So far this year, 14 persons have been shot and killed by police officers in Washington and surrounding counties, compared with 11 deaths in all of 1986. The circumstances in each of the shootings differed. But the immediate questions from friends and family of the victims were much the same: Why did they have to kill him? Why didn’t they wound him?

The answer from Prince George’s police spokesman Robert Law seems shocking, especially to people whose exposure to police work comes almost exclusively from fictional TV cop shows with stars who can shoot a suspect in the arm from any distance.

“When our officers shoot,” Law said, “they shoot to kill.”
The responses from police in Fairfax County, Montgomery County, the District and most other police departments would be similar. In fact, police officers are trained to shoot to stop suspects, not to kill them. But because of their firearms training, officers are likely to strike victims in parts of the body where serious or fatal injuries are likely: the chest or abdominal areas.

“Our officers are taught to aim for the largest part visible,” said Sgt. Gary Hutchison, the firearms instructor for the Prince George’s County Police Department. “We’ve got to aim for the largest part of the body available, whether it’s the chest, shoulder or stomach area.”

Montgomery County Police Chief Bernard D. Crooke Jr., who spent 23 years with the D.C. police department, said an officer’s purpose in discharging a firearm is to stop the suspect by shooting at the largest mass, even if it is the head of a gun-toting suspect. “We’d prefer that anyone we shot not be killed,” Crooke said. “But our purpose is to drop them. And sometimes that results in death. If people die, they die. It’s not our preference.”

But that is not an adequate explanation for some experts who think too much is left to the discretion of officers.
“It puts the individual police officer in an untenable position,” said James Fyfe, professor of justice at the American University and an expert in police operations.

“The departments rely on him to make a life-and-death decision at 3 a.m. in a dark alley. It is unfair. Those decisions should be made by administrators who sit in carpeted offices.”

In the wake of last week’s fatal shooting of a D.C. officer, at least one official wants to look again at the police policy of shooting to kill. Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Alex Williams, in naming a special investigator, said part of the probe should focus on “when it’s appropriate to disable rather than shoot fatally.”

The incidents where officers do draw and fire their weapons bear little resemblance to those on television and in movies, police officials and criminologists said.

“In big cities, police shootings occur within 10 feet,” Fyfe said. “The officer has no chance to aim, he points the gun.”
Most police departments’ regulations for use of deadly force require an officer to believe that his life or the life of another person is being threatened before he fires a weapon.

In most departments, the firing of warning shots has been prohibited since the early to mid-1970s for fear that an innocent person might be struck by the bullet. And firing weapons from or at moving vehicles is either prohibited or strictly limited to cases when, for example, a suspect tries to run over an officer with a vehicle.

The pace of police shootings in the Washington area has been exaggerated somewhat by the recent spate of deaths, including the fatal shooting Monday night of D.C. police officer James L. Gordon by Prince George’s County Cpl. Robert W. Raimond. In the District, Maryland suburbs and Northern Virginia, police have used their firearms 38 times this year, compared with 29 in all of 1986, according to statistics compiled last week by The Washington Post.

The increase, many police officers said, is partly a result of the escalating violence accompanying the expanding illegal drug trade in the area. That violence, frequently occurring with automatic and semi-automatic weapons, has accounted for a surge in homicides in the area, including a record number in Prince George’s County and a record-setting pace in the District.

It was inevitable, police officials said, that the violence eventually would turn from shootings between drug dealers and users to acts directed against law enforcement officers trying to stem the violence.

They point to the shooting last week of three District officers, bringing the number of D.C. officers shot and wounded to seven in the past two months. Police officials said that officers are likely to be a bit more jumpy because of the recent attacks against officers, but they said that apparently had little influence on what they know about the five recent police shootings.

“It is a bad situation,” said Buzz Sawyer, president of the Prince George’s County Fraternal Order of Police. “Officers are caught between a rock and a hard place. Officers have guidelines to go by. Criminals have none.”
The D.C. Metropolitan Police, Prince George’s County police and Maryland State Police are considering changing their standard weapons from .38-caliber revolvers to 9mm semi-automatic weapons to put them on a more even footing with suspects.

Fyfe, the American University professor, said changing service weapons will not alter the number of police shootings. “Most police shootings are over in a matter of seconds, and officers already can empty their six-shooters in a couple of seconds,” he said.

What might be more helpful to police is more training on how to avoid getting into situations where officers must decide whether to use deadly force, Fyfe said.

In the fatal shooting of Gordon, for example, some D.C. police officials questioned whether the county police officer should have begun to investigate the possible burglary in progress before backup officers or a police dog arrived. A similar situation in the District would have resulted in a barricade, they said.

Police departments are starting to focus more on such preventive training, Fyfe said, but most often departments provide little assistance in that area and leave decisions on whether to use deadly force to the individual officers.
Harvey Goldstein, the former director of psychological services for the Prince George’s County police, said police department’s guidelines for using deadly force are broad because of the high number of variables.

“Every police officer develops a sense of what is dangerous to them,” Goldstein said. “There are lots of cops who have justification to shoot people and kill them, but they don’t. There are people who would not have shot {D.C. officer Gordon}.

But they might have been killed.”Staff writer Paul Duggan contributed to this report.

Troubling Questions Linger In Officer’s Shooting Death

One week ago, just after 6:30 p.m., D.C. Officer James L. Gordon, 40, was killed at his home in Largo by Cpl. Robert W. Raimond, 27, of the Prince George’s County police. According to county officials, Raimond, answering a neighbor’s call, found evidence of a burglary, saw an armed man through the window of a lighted room, ordered the man, whom he presumed was a burglar, to freeze, then fired when the man raised his hands as if he were holding a weapon.

The incident stunned people throughout the metropolitan area. “You’re not safe in your own home,” shuddered one Prince George’s citizen. “I feel the shooting was racially motivated,” said Officer L.D. Crawley of the Metropolitan Police’s 4th District, referring to the fact that Gordon was black and Raimond is white. “A lot of us {black officers} feel it was murder, and rarely do I use that word.”

Expressing skepticism of county officials’ explanation that Gordon turned with a gun in hand to face Raimond, Crawley said, “No veteran would do that. Gordon wouldn’t have done that. All of us are afraid to travel to Prince George’s County.”
Whatever the reaction, however, one fundamental question haunted: How could a man who was a victim of a crime possibly be inside his own house and be killed by another man, with the full authority of government? Indeed, one point was unassailable: The burden of justifying the killing is enormous.

That’s why the response of some Prince George’s County officials was troubling from the start. The day after the shooting, county officials showed a television reporter a computerized program designed to train police in firearms use. To many viewers it appeared to be an effort to get the public to focus on just how short a time-a split second, say-a police officer has to make up his mind about whether to shoot when he sees a guy with a gun, as alleged in the case of Officer Gordon.
But that line of reasoning blatantly belies the obvious question of why there was a need for the officer to shoot at all. If Raimond went to the rear of the house and saw an open window and what appeared to be a burglary scene, why didn’t he stand to the side or crouch to avoid being shot, and call for backup?

Many people felt that the television report was an ominous signal that the county police were more interested in protecting their man than in determining if the killing was justified.

The day after the incident, Metropolitan Police Chief Maurice T. Turner Jr. met with County Police Chief Michael J. Flaherty about several “gray areas,” and on Wednesday, Flaherty responded to the growing criticism with a five-page letter to Turner in which he sought to respond, point by point, to some of the questions raised.

To many area residents, a thorough investigation was especially urgent in view of the fact that Raimond, on at least two previous occasions in his six-year career, had faced allegations of excessive use of force. In one case, a federal jury awarded $4,400 to a Riverdale man who had said that Raimond used unnecessary force and violated his civil rights during a traffic stop in March 1984.

Meanwhile, the Prince George’s police continue to support Raimond’s actions in this case.
It is reassuring that State’s Attorney Alex Williams has announced the appointment of an independent investigator to look into the case. Williams had already proven his concern about police shootings and excessive force by police officers by the official policy he announced in October of making sure such shootings are reviewed by his office and then routinely presented for grand jury review.

For the fundamental fact is this: Every black man in his own house and every black citizen in this area has to wonder, is it conceivable that a white citizen in his house would be shot as was this black citizen? In 99 out of 100 cases, I suspect the answer would be “no.” The only hope for the people of Prince George’s is a fair investigation.

The Maryland state prosecutor’s office could decide as early as today whether to investigate the Dec. 14 fatal shooting of a District police officer at his Largo home by a Prince George’s County officer called to the scene to investigate a burglary.
1. By law, the state prosecutor has jurisdiction to investigate charges of misconduct by government officials and civil servants, including local police officers. But one official in the state prosecutor’s office expressed concern yesterday that a state inquiry might duplicate efforts by Prince George’s State’s Attorney Alex Williams, who appointed an independent investigator 11 days ago to look into the shooting.

The attorney for the family of D.C. Officer James L. Gordon, saying that political pressures on Williams might result in a “whitewash,” requested in a Dec. 24 letter to State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli that the state investigate the incident separately.

The county police also are investigating what happened on the evening of Dec. 14 when Prince George’s police Cpl. Robert W. Raimond apparently mistook Gordon for a burglar and shot him in the chest, killing him.
The incident, involving a white county police officer and black District police officer “gives rise to too many questions,” said Gordon family attorney Clayton J. Powell Jr.

“The local investigations certainly are vulnerable to conflicts of interest,” Powell said.
“By bringing in the state prosecutor we might relieve any political pressure on {Williams’} office to do a whitewash. This case has generated a tremendous amount of pressure,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Williams said he “intends to stand by his investigation that he began {Dec. 18} and wait for the results.”
James Cabezas, chief investigator for the state prosecutor’s office, said yesterday that Montanarelli, who was out and not available for comment, would make a decision immediately after receiving Powell’s letter. “The local investigations certainly are vulnerable to conflicts of interest.”

– Clayton J. Powell Jr.
review what is known about the shooting. Cabezas cautioned, however, that the involvement of the independent investigator would weigh in the decision to launch a state probe.

“We don’t want to do a duplicate investigation,” Cabezas said. “We have every reason to believe that Alex Williams will do a fine investigation.”

Gordon was in his Largo home investigating a burglary when Raimond arrived after being dispatched on a burglary report.
Neither officer apparently knew the other was at the scene. Raimond was outside the house when he saw an armed man through a window.

Mistaking him for a burglar, Raimond called out for him to freeze, according to a witness quoted by Prince George’s police.
Police said that, according to the witness’ account, Gordon turned and raised his hands in a shooting position, and Raimond shot him once in the chest.

Since the shooting, questions have been raised by Gordon’s fellow D.C. officers about whether Gordon was warned properly by Raimond, whether prompt medical attention was administered and about when D.C. police officials were informed and allowed access to the shooting scene.


Maryland State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli declined yesterday to begin a separate probe of the Dec. 14 fatal shooting of a District police officer by a Prince George’s County officer, saying local authorities should be able to properly handle the case.

He said, however, that his office would provide help to local authorities if Prince George’s State’s Attorney Alex Williams requested it.

“We are out of it,” said Montanarelli. “The state’s attorney’s office in Prince George’s is in it.
“The gist of it is . . . we are not going to enter a case where another prosecutor is conducting an investigation,” Montanarelli continued. “There is no reason for the state prosecutor to get involved unless there is evidence that the investigation is being conducted improperly.”

A spokeswoman for Williams said yesterday that involvement by the state prosecutor’s office, which has jurisdiction to investigate misconduct by government officials and employees, is not necessary. Two weeks ago, Williams appointed a special investigator to look into the incident. The county police also are investigating.

The family of D.C. Officer James L. Gordon, saying they feared that political pressures on Williams might result in an incomplete investigation, asked Montanarelli last week to look into the incident separately. Gordon was shot at his Largo home by Prince George’s police Cpl. Robert W. Raimond, who apparently mistook him for a burglar.

Gordon family attorney Clayton J. Powell Jr. said he was pleased with Montanarelli’s pledge to help in the investigation if needed and added that the family would be “watching the {local investigation} very closely.”

“We are very pleased to know that {Montanarelli} has placed the resources of his office at the disposal of the local prosecutor,” Powell said. “Our chief concern is that the case be fully investigated. We don’t know whether any outside support should be given {at this time} because the investigation is ongoing.”

Gordon was at his home investigating a burglary when Raimond arrived after being dispatched on a burglary report.
Neither officer apparently knew the other was at the scene, police said. Raimond was outside the house when he saw an armed man through a window. Mistaking him for a burglar, Raimond called out for him to freeze, according to a police witness. Police said that, according to the witness’ account, Gordon turned and raised his hands in a shooting position, and Raimond shot him once in the chest.

Since the shooting, questions have been raised by Gordon’s fellow D.C. officers about whether Gordon was warned properly by Raimond, whether prompt medical attention was administered and about when D.C. police officials were informed and allowed access to the shooting scene.


Prince George’s County police said yesterday that the actions of Cpl. Robert W. Raimond that led to the fatal shooting of a District policeman in his Largo home on Dec. 14 were “justifiable” and that Raimond has been returned to full duty.
However, Raimond has been reassigned from patrol duties to an administrative position in the communications division. He had been on administrative leave with pay since the shooting.

While the police investigation has cleared Raimond, the shooting is still being investigated by Alonzo Black, who was appointed as an independent investigator by County State’s Attorney Alex Williams on Dec. 18.
Raimond, 27, assigned to the Bowie District, was on routine patrol when he responded to a burglary call at 10612 Mount Lubentia Way, according to police. He went to the rear of the house where he saw James L. Gordon, whom he mistook for a burglar, standing in the family room, police said.

Raimond, a six-year member of the county police force, told investigators that he ordered Gordon to “freeze.” According to Mark Spriggs, a neighbor who witnessed the 6:40 p.m. shooting, Gordon instead turned and raised his hands together as if he were about to fire a weapon. Raimond, standing outside an open window, fired one shot from his service revolver, hitting Gordon, 40, in the chest.

The shooting of a black man in his home by a white police officer has stirred controversy that has been fueled by accusations by D.C. police officers who said that D.C. police were kept in the dark about many details of the investigation and were not given proper access to the scene after the incident, and that paramedics were not allowed to enter the house upon arrival.

In the week that followed, Prince George’s Police Chief Michael J. Flaherty responded with two open letters aimed at defusing the emotionally fed controversy.

In his new position, Raimond will have little contact with the public. The reassignment was made because “it was felt that it is in the best interest of the officer and of the department,” said police spokesman Sgt. Mark A. Wright.

The president of the Prince George’s County chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police has sent a letter to the county state’s attorney urging the prosecutor to conclude his nearly three-month-old special investigation into the December shooting of a District police officer by a county officer.

In his six-paragraph letter, Lodge No. 89 President Buzz Sawyer told prosecutor Alex Williams that the “prolonged investigation has caused additional suffering” and that members of the police organization can see no justification for “the delays in your investigation.”

Williams announced on Dec. 18 that staff lawyer Alonzo Black would investigate the Dec. 14 death of D.C. police Officer James L. Gordon, who police said was shot in his Largo home after a county officer, Cpl. Robert W. Raimond, mistook him for a burglar.

Williams asked for “a thorough investigation, not a speedy one,” Williams’ spokeswoman Alexis Revis said yesterday. However, Revis said that the results probably will be given to Williams this week.