Police: Details of fatal shooting at Thomas Circle have turned cloudy

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DC police investigate Monday’s deadly shooting of a man in a tent at a Thomas Circle homeless camp said on wednesday they have grown more not sure what happened and trying to interview a person seen running away.

While police initially labeled the shooting of 32-year-old Emmanuel Lys a murder, officials said at a community rally on Wednesday that detectives had not ruled out a suicide. Police also said it’s possible a person shot Lys in the neck in self-defense or that his death was an accident.

Authorities said a firearm found outside the tent was the weapon used in the murder, which took place around 9:45 a.m. on a median strip at 14th Street and Massachusetts Avenue NW, on the east side of the circle.

DC Police Cmdr. James M. Boteler, chief of the Third District station, said during the Zoom meeting with concerned residents, “We don’t know exactly how that firearm went off.”

Boteler added that the police “don’t know if it was suicide. We don’t know if it was malicious intent.” He said the wanted person “was present at the tent when the firearm went off and we want to speak to him.” The identity of that person has not been released.

Man fatally shot in Thomas Circle homeless camp

The one hour meeting was organized by the DowntownDC Business Improvement District after residents living in the area complained that the camp had posed health and safety risks for months. Many asked why someone had to be killed for inciting District officials to remove the camp.

In the Zoom text chat at the meeting, some residents complained of being harassed and witnessing crimes, while others said conditions in the small camp were also dangerous for those living there. One person questioned whether those who moved around the city after the shooting have received the promised help.

Debra Kilpatrick Byrd, director of homeless services for the improvement district, said about 16 people had lived in the camp in the past three months and there were six more. there after the shooting when the police arrived. She said housing had been found for three of them and the other three benefited from outreach programs. Officials said some may have moved to another encampment a few blocks away.

Attempts to contact Lys’ family in Boston suburb Malden have failed. Price said it seems Lys had been at the camp for a while and known to some field workers.

police cmdr. Duncan Bedlion, head of the Second District, which also includes part of Thomas Circle, said the camp has been on the police’s radar for some time. He said officers made 35 arrests and seized narcotics and firearms in the past four months.

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Bedlion said in one case, a man brandished a gun at a nearby supermarket and hid the weapon in a tent. He also said that people who did not live in the camp used the tents to hide weapons and contraband.

“It was a challenge,” said the commander.

Police said they are working closely with the DC Department of Human Services on when to take action against encampments. Boteler described a delicate balance.

“We all want to be empathetic to the needs of people, both who live in some of these camps and the residents who are affected by them,” the commander said. “There’s a very thin line we have to walk… to make sure we’re helping everyone.”

But Boteler said “no camping” signs have been posted in the park and he told residents to report any attempt to restore an encampment.

“The removal will be fast,” Boteler said. “We don’t want to give this another boost.”

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