January 11, 2013 at 10:34 am EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Probation for D.C. cop in trans shooting case
Metro DC Police, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. police officer Kenneth Furr was sentenced in a case related to the firing of his gun through the windshield of a car with the five people inside. (Washington Blade photo by Phil Reese)

An off-duty D.C. police officer accused in August 2011 of firing his service revolver into a car occupied by three transgender women and two male friends was sentenced on Thursday to three years of supervised probation, a $150 fine, and 100 hours of community service.

D.C. Superior Court Judge Russell Canan also sentenced Officer Kenneth Furr, 48, to five years in prison but suspended all but 14 months of the prison term and credited Furr with the 14 months he already served between the time of his arrest and his trial last October.

Canan released Furr October 26 while awaiting sentencing after a Superior Court jury convicted him of assault with a deadly weapon and solicitation for prostitution but acquitted him on six other charges, including the most serious charge of assault with intent to kill while armed.

The latter charge was linked to his firing of five shots into the car where the transgender women and their friends were sitting.

Police and prosecutors have said the shooting occurred following a confrontation that started when Furr solicited one of the transgender women for sex for money at 5th and K Streets, N.W., and followed the woman after she rejected his offer. Furr then argued with one or more of her friends who asked Furr leave her alone.

At the time of his arrest, police said Furr’s blood alcohol level was twice that of the legal limit for drivers.

Canan rejected a request by Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Worm, the lead prosecutor, that Furr be given the maximum sentence of 5 years in prison for the assault with a deadly weapon charge. He also denied her request for an additional three months incarceration for the solicitation conviction.

News of the shooting outraged LGBT activists as well as Mayor Vincent Gray and members of the D.C. City Council, who called for stepped up efforts to curtail violence against the city’s transgender community.

The D.C. Trans Coalition issued a statement late Thursday calling the sentence of no additional jail time for Furr “outrageous” and said it would heighten longstanding fears by the transgender community of mistreatment and abuse by police officers.

“This result is the product of a legal system that constantly devalues trans lives, particularly trans people of color,” said D.C. Trans Coalition member Jason Terry. “Officer Furr’s defense team actively sought to portray the victims as somehow deserving of this violence, and apparently they succeeded,” he said.

“If roles had been reversed and a black trans woman had gotten drunk and shot a gun at a police officer, the results would be drastically different,” Terry said.

Court observers said the jury’s decision to find Furr not guilty on the assault with intent to kill while armed charge most likely resulted from a successful effort by Furr’s attorneys to portray the shooting as an act of self-defense.

Canan said his suspension of 46 months of the 60 month (five year) prison term was contingent upon Furr’s successful completion of his three year probation period and other restrictions, including a requirement that he stay away from the five complainants.

Court records show Canan also ordered Furr to stay away from “the area bounded by: New York Avenue, Massachusetts Avenue, 7th Street, N.W. and North Capitol Street, N.W.,” which is widely known as one of the city’s transgender prostitution zones.

In addition, Canan set as a condition for the parole that Furr enter an alcohol treatment program and enroll in anger management classes.

In the sentencing memorandum on behalf of the U.S. Attorney’s office, Worm said one reason why Furr was not a good candidate for a sentence involving parole and no prison time was that he failed to immediately comply with his pre-sentencing release conditions. She noted that although he was instructed to report immediately after his release on Oct. 26 for regular alcohol testing and other conditions, he did not report for the testing until a full month after his release.

The charge of assault with a deadly weapon, on which he was convicted, stemmed from allegations by prosecutors that Furr pointed his gun at one of the transgender women’s friends outside a CVS store on the 400 block of Massachusetts Ave., N.W. at about 5 a.m. on Aug 26, 2011.

According to testimony by the victims, Furr solicited one of the trans women propositioning sex for money minutes earlier on the street at 5th and K Streets, N.W. The woman rebuffed his request and walked away, but Furr followed her to the CVS store, where one of her male friends called on Furr to leave her alone, witnesses reported.

Furr then started an argument that continued outside the store, where Furr pulled out his gun and pointed it at the women’s friend.

Although Furr did not fire the gun, prosecutors argued his action constituted an assault with a deadly weapon and persuaded the jury to convict him on that count.

During the trial the defense presented evidence, which prosecutors acknowledged was factually correct, that the trans women and their male friends responded by following Furr in their car after Furr drove away from the CVS store.

Trial testimony showed that the group followed Furr to the area of 3rd and K Street, N.W., where they observed Furr attempting to solicit another transgender woman for sex. At that point, two of the people in the car got out and confronted Furr and one or both of them assaulted Furr, witnesses testified during the trial.

Furr then returned to his car and drove away, with the trans women and their male friends following him again, witnesses testified. This prompted Furr to stop his car at First and Pierce Streets, N.W., and fire his gun at the other car, which Furr’s lawyer said was in pursuit of his, according to testimony at the trial.

One of the male friends driving the vehicle ducked to avoid being shot and unintentionally rammed the car into Furr’s car, witnesses testified.

Furr responded by climbing on the hood of the car occupied by the transgender women and their friends and fired five times through the front windshield, causing three of the occupants to suffer non-fatal gunshot wounds.

Within minutes D.C. police rushed to the scene and arrested Furr, who was found to have a blood alcohol level twice the legal limit under D.C. law.

David Knight, Furr’s lead defense attorney, appeared to have persuaded the jury that the people he shot at were the aggressors and Furr acted in self-defense, court observers said.

“He was alone, outnumbered and under attack,” the Washington Post quoted Knight saying to the jury. “He was threatened, assaulted and pursued by a car full of people who wanted to harm him.”

In her sentencing memorandum, Worm said that at no point did Furr identify himself as a police officer to the complainants nor did he call for police help if he believed he was in danger.

“To be sure, some of the complainants involved in this incident engaged in risky behavior and bad judgment,” she said in the memo.

“The government does not minimize the fact that both parties had opportunities to withdraw from this conflict, but the government’s view, as exhibited in its charging decisions, is that the defendant bore criminal responsibility for provoking and escalating the conflict, and introducing a deadly weapon into a situation that could have otherwise been resolved,” Worm wrote in the memo.

“Many of the witnesses who testified at trial were associated, in some way, with Washington, D.C.’s transgender community,” Worm said in the memo. “That community has historically suffered discrimination from a variety of sources. Moreover, the members of the transgender community bear a heightened risk that they will be victims of violent crime,” she wrote.

“This defendant was a police officer charged with protecting and serving the citizens of the District of Columbia,” she said. “Defendant Furr’s actions on the night of this offense increased the transgender community’s already significant safety concerns and their distrust of the Metropolitan Police Department.”

D.C. police spokesperson Gwendolyn Crump said Furr has been suspended without pay and that the department will follow its standard procedure for dealing with an officer convicted of a felony. Police observers have said a felony conviction, especially one associated with violence, usually results in the firing of a police officer.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • “Police observers have said a felony conviction, especially one associated with violence, usually results in the firing of a police officer.”

    Usually? This would seem to imply that a badged piece of garbage such as Furr has the opportunity to remain a menace with near-total immunity.

  • The double standard in the District is alive and well. If anyone and especially a trans person had done what this jack ass did they’d be serving a 10 year sentence. Hopefully this piece of shit will shoot himself while he’s drunk and blow his genitals off.

    The level of hatred harbored towards the transgender community is sky high in the police stations throughout D.C.

    This case should be taken to the Department of Justice for further review.

  • MPD HQ will somberly promise the LGTB community a lot of things while any given hate crime is in the news. It is a PR game they play.

    They count upon LGBT community interest to die down, so that they can continue to ignore anti-LGBT hate crimes cases. How many years have we witnessed this ‘MO’ under this chief of police?

    Mayor Gray continues to be tacitly complicit in that cynical PR game, as well.

    Notice that MPD’s Ms. Crump did not offer any details, nor a time frame as to MPD’s “dealing” with this now-convicted MPD felon. If MPD PR promises lack a time range for the next followup action to occur, be suspicious. Be VERY suspicious.

    Talk is cheap. Any of us can speculate as to what might happen with MPD’s employment of a convicted felon which tarnishes all badges. The only thing that is relevant is what MPD actually DOES with anti-LGBT hate crimes cases.

    — Why have anti-LGBT hate crimes case gone up every year without any effective effort by MPD’s chiefs to end them?
    — Is MPD really acting without institutional anti-LGBT prejudice– both transphobic and homophobic?
    — And if not, then why isn’t MPD HQ acting transparently with the public it is sworn to serve?

    Chief Lanier needs to be reminded that having a SECRET POLICE force in our nation’s capital is not an option. And having a “liaison” group that is not permitted by the chiefs to provide anti-LGBT hate crimes stats to LGBT public safety activists is a sham.

    MPD HQ must make available to the public, and through its own Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU), MPD’s closure and other stats on anti-LGBT hate crimes-related cases for the past 5 years…

    — How many anti-LGBT hate crimes have been closed by MPD with an arrest?
    — How many anti-LGBT hate crimes cases are open?
    — How many anti-LGBT hate crimes cases are actively under investigation?
    — What specific investigative actions and how many MPD hours have been spent on investigating anti-LGBT hate crimes case?
    — What new investigative procedures and actions are being implemented by MPD?

    Compiling meaningful statistics which give DC LGBT residents and LGBT visitors to DC an accurate picture of the growing threat of violent hate crimes– to them and their loved ones– is essential for public safety.

    New Council Judiciary Committee Chair Tommy Wells and his staff should be asking tough, ongoing, relevant oversight questions of MPD. That alone might actually reverse the chronic rise in incredibly violent anti-LGBT hate crimes in DC.

    DCTC should work closely with GLOV and GLAA (and Rainbow Rainbow response, where relevant) to compile and monitor the progress of investigations of DC’s anti-LGBT hate crimes cases.

    And DC’s LGBT residents and businesses should support those organizations– with special events, if needed– in their incredibly important work to help keep us all safe on the streets of Washington.

  • What a creep and our flaky justice system at work.

  • Pardon? Probation? DID HE NOT DISCHARGE HIS WEAPON WHILE INTOXICATED WITH INTENT TO KILL? DID HE NOT ALSO DRIVE DRUNK? SUSPENSION? sorry that doesn't cut it! he was drunk and fired at unarmed civilians, he should be behind bars! why are we (transgendered) people treated as if we are 3rd class? he tried to kill! plain and simple!

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