A D.C. Superior Court judge on Sept. 2 ruled that prosecutors established probable cause that an off-duty D.C. police officer committed an assault with a dangerous weapon for allegedly firing a pistol at three transgender women and two male friends during an Aug. 26 incident in Northwest Washington.
Judge Ann O’Regan Keary ordered Officer Kenneth Furr, a 21-year veteran on the force, held without bond pending his trial. Keary said evidence presented by police and prosecutors showed that releasing the officer would pose a danger to the community.
The judge’s ruling came during a preliminary hearing in which First District police Det. James Freeman provided detailed testimony about his investigation of the incident.
Freeman testified that the victims and at least two D.C. police officers who were in the vicinity of the shooting reported that Furr stood on the hood of a car in which the victims were sitting and fired at them through the windshield.
He said witnesses and the victims reported that the incident began about 4:40 a.m. at a CVS drug store at 400 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., when Furr and one of the shooting victims reportedly got into a “verbal altercation.”
Transgender activist Jeri Hughes said one of the transgender women involved in the incident told her the verbal altercation inside the CVS store started when Furr approached one of the transgender women and invited her to engage in sex. Furr reportedly became angry when she turned him down, Hughes said, prompting the woman’s male friend to exchange words with Furr in an effort to get him to leave the woman alone.
Freeman testified that Furr and the same person who argued with Furr inside the CVS store exchanged words outside the store a short time later while Furr was sitting in his car parked nearby.
According to Freeman, Furr reportedly retrieved a handgun from the glove compartment of his car, pointed it at the person and threatened to shoot the person, who is believed to be one of the male friends of the trans women.
The same person returned to the CVS store and told a security guard that Furr had threatened him with a gun, a police affidavit says. The victim then met up with the other four people, including the three transgender women, and all five got into one of their cars and followed Furr, who drove away in his car, Freeman testified.
When both cars reached the intersection of First and Pierce streets, N.W., Furr jumped out of his car and began to shoot at the car where the five others were riding, Freeman told the court hearing. The shooting prompted the driver to crouch down to avoid being hit, causing the car he was driving to collide with Furr’s car, Freeman said.
That’s when Furr apparently climbed on the hood of the other car and fired his gun through the windshield, the victims and police witnesses reported.
Police and transgender activists who spoke with at least two of the victims said two of three transgender women in the car suffered non-life threatening gunshot wounds during the incident. Transgender activists said one of two male friends who were in the car was also was struck and suffered serious but non-life threatening wounds. All three were treated in area hospitals, the activists said.
In his testimony at the Sept. 2 hearing Freeman recounted details from a police affidavit he prepared that lists each of the five people in the car as unidentified witnesses. Neither the affidavit nor Freeman during his court testimony mentioned that three of the five people in the car at which Furr allegedly fired his gun were members of the transgender community.
News that some of the victims were members of the transgender community emerged from a police news release on the day of the incident. Deputy D.C. Police Chief Diane Groomes made personal calls to LGBT activists shortly after 5 a.m. on Aug. 26, just minutes after the incident occurred, to inform them of what happened and to note that police and the department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit were investigating the incident.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Worm argued at the court hearing that police provided sufficient evidence that probable cause exists that Furr committed an assault with a dangerous weapon two times – once when he pointed the gun at one or two of the victims outside the CVS store and another time when he fired his gun at the victims while they were in their car.
Furr’s defense attorney, Harold Martin, told Keary accounts of the incident by various witnesses appeared to differ, making it difficult to determine the events that led to the shooting. He noted that the car in which the five people were riding followed Furr in the “wee hours of the morning” and Furr had a legal right to defend himself if he believed he was in danger.
He also pointed to the police affidavit’s assertion that one of the victims admitted to being drunk at the time of the incident and another victim admitted to having smoked marijuana the night prior to the incident.
“There are a lot of unanswered questions about what happened that night,” he said.
“The defendant exhibited extremely reckless behavior,” Worm told the judge. “He shot at least five times and certainly all five could have been killed.”
She pointed to a statement by at least one of the victims that Furr shouted “Ima kill all of you” before he started shooting into the vehicle.
Worm noted a police breadth test also found that Furr “had been drinking a substantial amount of alcohol” and that he had a prior arrest in D.C. for driving while intoxicated. Police initially charged Furr with driving while intoxicated in the latest incident but the U.S. Attorney’s office did not file that charge in court.
Nearly a dozen family members and friends of Furr’s sat in the courtroom during the hearing, a fact that defense attorney Martin mentioned while arguing that Furr’s strong community ties were among the grounds for allowing him to be released while awaiting trial.
But Keary, in issuing her ruling on the matter, said the government met the legal criteria needed to have Furr held in jail, saying no combination of circumstances or mitigating factors could override her belief that Furr would pose a danger to the public if released.
She scheduled a status hearing for Oct. 7. The case was expected to go before a grand jury in the next few weeks.