An off-duty D.C. police officer charged with firing a pistol at three transgender women and two male friends last Friday was in handcuffs Tuesday morning as marshals led him into court for a preliminary hearing.
D.C. Superior Court Chief Judge Lee F. Satterfield, who is presiding over the case, granted a request by an attorney representing Officer Kenneth Furr to postpone the hearing until Friday, adding to the suspense surrounding an incident that has outraged LGBT activists and city officials, including Mayor Vincent Gray.
Satterfield ordered Furr returned to jail pending Friday’s hearing, where the judge will rule on whether the officer should remain in jail while he awaits trial.
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Furr has been on the force for more than 20 years. He was charged on Friday with assault with a dangerous weapon and driving while intoxicated following allegations by the victims and witnesses that he shot at least three of five people sitting in a car about 5:25 a.m. on Aug. 29 at First and Pierce streets, N.W.
Two of three transgender women sitting in the car were hit by bullets and suffered non-life threatening injures, police said. One of two males in the car was also struck, suffering serious but non-life threatening wounds, according to police and witnesses.
A police affidavit filed in court says the victims and on-duty D.C. police officers, who were in the area when the shooting took place, reported seeing Furr standing on the hood of the car in which the victims were sitting.
Two of the victims said he fired his gun at them through the car windshield, striking them as they screamed in horror, according to transgender activists who spoke with the victims.
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D.C. transgender activist Jeri Hughes said two of the trans women shot during the incident told her that police officers arriving on the scene handcuffed them and “treated them like criminals instead of victims.”
Hughes and other LGBT activists said police appeared to have called in the department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit to assist in the case and quickly alerted LGBT activists through a police e-mail list used to communicate with the LGBT community.
But Hughes said the report by the victims that officers handcuffed them confirmed yet again longstanding concerns within the transgender community that D.C. police are biased against the trans community.
Officer Araz Alali, a police spokesperson, said Tuesday that the department was unaware of that allegation.
“We have not heard that the police handcuffed the complainants,” he said, adding that the department was still investigating the case and more information could surface about such an allegation.
The police affidavit says the incident began a few blocks away at a CVS drugstore at 400 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., when Furr approached one of the witnesses in the case and engaged the witness in conversation. It says another of the witnesses got into a “verbal altercation” with Furr before the two witnesses left the store.
Transgender activists who spoke with at least two of the transgender women shot in the incident said the women told them Furr approached one of them during that initial encounter at or near the CVS store and expressed interest in having sex with her. Furr reportedly became angry when the women turned down his request, the activists who spoke with the two women said.
The affidavit says that members of the group of three trans women and two male friends crossed paths with Furr minutes later on the street, when Furr made a comment to one of them while he was sitting in his car parked outside the CVS store.
“Another verbal altercation ensured, and during the argument, defendant Furr reached into the glove compartment of his vehicle and retrieved a dark-colored handgun and pointed it at witness 1” the affidavit says. It says witness 1 and witness 5, who are believed to be one of the trans women and her male friend, returned to the CVS store and reported to an off-duty police officer working there as a security guard that Furr threatened them with a gun.
According to the affidavit, witness 1 and 5 then met up with the other witnesses identified as the victims in the case and entered a car belonging to witness 1.
“While driving, witness 1 saw the white Cadillac driven by defendant Furr and followed the Cadillac in the hopes that it could again report defendant Furr for pointing a gun at it,” the affidavit says. “At some point, defendant Furr stopped his car and as witness 1 went to drive around defendant Furr’s car, defendant Furr stepped out of his car with a gun pointed toward witness 1’s vehicle,” says the affidavit.
“Witness 1 ducked down in an attempt to avoid being shot, and then heard shots fired and felt a jolt which he later realized was [his] car colliding with defendant Furr’s car,” the affidavit says. “When witness 1 looked up [he] saw defendant Furr standing on top of the witnesses’ vehicle with a handgun and firing shots into the vehicle.”
The affidavit says another of the victims identified as witness 4 “reportedly heard the man who was shooting say, ‘Ima kill all of you’ before he started shooting into the vehicle.”
Police said they suspended Furr’s police powers at the time of his arrest pending an investigation by the department’s Internal Affairs Division.
Court records show Furr was charged with driving while intoxicated in a separate incident in 2004. Records show the D.C. attorney general’s office dropped the charge after Furr completed a diversion program. Details of the diversion program couldn’t be immediately obtained from court records, but such programs usually involve requiring a defendant to undergo counseling or alcohol treatment.