Off-Duty Officer Testifies in Milk Crate Shooting Trial

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On April 2, testimony continued before DC Superior Court Judge Andrea Hertzfeld in a non-fatal shooting dispute centered on a milk crate that was thrown back and forth over a fence.

Diandre Caesar, 29, is charged with three counts of assault with a dangerous weapon, second-degree cruelty to children, and two counts of possession of a firearm during a crime of violence, among other charges, for his alleged involvement in a shooting that occurred on June 28, 2022, on the 2200 block of New York Avenue, NE. No injuries were reported.

Prosecution called an officer from the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD who testified she was at a McDonald’s drive-through on her lunch break when she heard a commotion nearby. 

According to the officer, she observed a man matching Caesar’s description engaged in an argument near a fence adjacent to the Salvation Army, but was unable to see who he was arguing with or the individual’s vehicle.

She claimed she heard Caesar say, “You don’t want this smoke.”

The verbal altercation lasted approximately 30 seconds, but after Caesar walked away, she heard gunshots coming from the street.

Previous testimony established that the issue was a milk crate that was thrown over a fence by the suspect, then thrown back by the victim.

The officer dialed 911 to alert authorities and claimed seeing Caesar run across the parking lot in the opposite direction of where she heard gunshots. When she saw a black car driving out of the parking lot shortly after, she assumed Caesar was in the vehicle and began photographing it. 

She testified that she did not witness who fired the shots but drove to where she believed the shots were fired. When she spotted shell casings, she “secured the scene” to preserve the evidence.

On cross-examination, the off-duty officer testified that she never saw anyone carrying a firearm, including the man who ran across the parking lot. 

Further, Caesar’s defense attorney, Joseph Fay, pointed out that there was a period after the shots were fired and before the officer secured the scene that the shell casings could have been disturbed. The officer agreed, but testified that to her knowledge this had not occurred.

The prosecution then called Caesar’s co-worker, who witnessed the dispute as he entered a nearby parking lot but chose not to intervene.

He noted that Caesar appeared upset, adding, “If somebody threw a crate at you and spit on you, you would have definitely been angry. I am sure he was angry.”

However, the prosecution moved to strike that statement, arguing that surveillance video showed the witness arriving after the milk crate was thrown, and therefore was hearsay. The motion was denied by Judge Hertzfeld. 

The witness recounted he never heard gunshots. After the dispute, Caesar told the witness he was leaving before the witness got into a black vehicle that he believed was Caesar’s.

Prosecutors showed video evidence of Caesar allegedly leaving the parking lot with another unidentified man inside a similar vehicle.

During cross-examination, Fay asked the witness if he ever saw Caesar with a firearm, which the witness denied.

Prosecutors called the lead detective who showed Caesar’s photograph to the victim who identified him as the shooter.

Fay argued that Caesar’s photo was not shown to the victim in an array comparing similar individuals and therefore his perception might be biased.

He also pointed out that no witnesses from the McDonald’s drive-through were located besides the off-duty officer. He added that the video surveillance footage from the McDonald’s was never obtained by MPD, and no firearm was ever recovered in connection to the shooting.

Witness testimony will continue April 3.

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