The D.C. police department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit and its transgender supervisor, Sgt. Jessica Hawkins, played a role in persuading a 31-year-old transgender woman to peacefully surrender after a 10-hour standoff on the roof of a downtown office building in which she fired a handgun and threatened to kill herself and harm others.
According to a police news release and a separate police report, officers charged Sophia Dalke of Springfield, Va., with assault on a police officer while armed. The arrest came about 10:30 a.m. after Dalke agreed to peacefully leave a location in which she positioned herself on the roof deck of an upscale office building at 1999 K St., N.W.
“The MPD GLLU reported Suspect 1 told MPD that she wanted to commit suicide,” the highly redacted public version of the police report says. “Suspect 1 told MPD that she had just shot out the glass door leading to the roof top,” the report says.
The report adds: “Responding MPD units arrived on the scene to the front of the building. On the scene, sounds of several gunshots could be heard. Gunshots were fired in the area where police personnel were arriving.”
The report says Sgt. Hawkins was among three officers that provided assistance to the department’s Emergency Response Team that was dispatched to the scene. The press release says the officers arrived shortly after 12:19 a.m. after being alerted that “an adult female in crisis [was] threatening harm to herself and others.”
The police press release, which makes no mention that Dalke is transgender, says “a barricade incident was declared” after Dalke “discharged a firearm.”
As the standoff extended into the morning rush hour, police closed the 1900 block of K Street and a number of surrounding streets as a means of extra precaution, even though officials said they didn’t believe pedestrians or motorists were in immediate danger. The street closings caused a massive traffic and pedestrian gridlock, preventing hundreds of people from getting to their offices for the start of the workday.
Neither the police report nor press release discloses that Dalke is transgender. The press release makes no mention of the GLLU or Sgt. Hawkins’ involvement in the police response to the incident.
But on her Facebook page Dalke openly discusses her status as a trans woman and her experiences in transitioning in a series of postings over the past several months. In a posting late Sunday night or early Monday morning Dalke stated, “Sorry all, I’m dead tonight.”
That posting prompted three of her friends to post messages of support that suggested they somehow learned Dalke was considering taking her own life or lashing out at others at the site of the office building.
“Sophia, we care about you. I care about you,” one of the friends stated in a post. “Sophia, you are way too smart and cool to do this. Come down and have a drink with us, and we’ll figure this out.”
Another wrote, “Sophia, please check your phone. We are trying to communicate with you.” Several hours later that same friend wrote, “Thank God! Sophia has surrendered to authorities, is down from the roof, and safe. Thank you to everyone who jumped in, texted, called, and offered support. Though we don’t know for sure if Sophia saw our support, if she did, I am certain it helped! We are all in this together.”
Lt. Sean Conboy, a police spokesperson, said he could not comment on whether the GLLU or the GLLU supervisor, Sgt. Hawkins, played a role in the police effort to persuade Dalke to peacefully surrender.
As of late Monday, police officials did not disclose why or how Dalke entered the office building on K Street after midnight on Monday.
Local transgender advocate Dana Beyer said she doesn’t know Dalke but has spoken with others who know her. Beyer said people who know Dalke said she worked in one of the offices in the building, enabling her to gain access to the building early Monday morning.
Police charging documents filed in court, which were unavailable on Monday, were expected to reveal more details of the incident upon their release into the public court records on Tuesday.
The police standoff with Dalke comes at a time when D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier has redeployed members of the GLLU and other specialized police units to street patrol duties unrelated to their regular specialized mission several times each month.
Officials have said the redeployments are needed to provide more police patrols in high crime areas at a time when the department is facing a shortage of officers due to retirements and attrition. Some LGBT activists have expressed concern that the GLLU is less visible in the LGBT community than it has been in the past.
Earl Fowlkes, president of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political group, said on Monday following a regularly scheduled club meeting, that the GLLU’s reported involvement in the effort to persuade Dalke to surrender peacefully shows that the unit continues to play an important role in the community’s safety.
“If that is true, then this is another reason why we need to have the GLLU,” Fowlkes said.