Karon Long was just 13 years old when he was shot dead by a vigilante in a Washington, DC, neighbourhood.
The man alleges that Karon had been breaking into vehicles in the area — and after what has been described as an “altercation” by DC Metropolitan Police — fired several shots that ultimately took the minor’s life in the early morning hours of 7 January. Karon was unarmed.
In the aftermath of his senseless killing, the community has rallied around Karon’s family to demand, so far fruitlessly, that the name of the culprit is released.
Their outrage has been met with remarks by DC police that naming the individual could potentially hinder their ongoing investigation with the US Attorney’s Office. The public has pushed back at that assertion, accusing the department of protecting the killer, who works for the city.
“Give us justice. Give us any justice,” Karon’s grandfather Sean Long told Assistant Police Chief Morgan Kane in front of a crowd at a town hall meeting on Tuesday, per FOX. “Do your job, let the jury deal with him. Because if they don’t, you are all my witnesses, people are going to be at war on the street.”
Few details have been revealed about the man who shot Karon. Earlier this week, local police and DC Mayor Muriel Bowser confirmed this week that the man is an African American government employee who does not work in public safety and has since been put on administrative leave.
Ms Bowser refused to say which agency the man works for.
A police report of the incident on Saturday said a resident “heard noises and observed someone that appeared to be tampering with vehicles.”
“The male resident went outside, armed with a registered firearm, to further investigate. There was an interaction between a juvenile male and the male resident. During the interaction, the male resident discharged his firearm striking the victim,” it added.
Karon later died in the hospital.
Amid the lack of information being shared with the public, some have taken it upon themselves to track down the identity of the man behind Karon’s death, with online sleuths mistakenly doxxing neighbours of the man, police said.
“People are making allegations centred around race, and that is wrong,” DC Police Chief Robert Contee said on Wednesday at a press conference to address rampant misinformation on the internet. “Imagine if it was your picture beside (Karon’s), if people showed up at your house with half-information? That’s unacceptable.”
“Spreading of inaccurate information is dangerous, reckless, and has the potential to adversely impact the investigation, and the relationships in our community,” he added.
The police chief also decried discourse filled with speculation that has, at times, pointed the finger at the minor and his family for his tragic fate.
Yet, the department fiercely defended its decision not to release a name, while promising an impartial investigation.
“We recognize the community’s desire in getting the details of this incident but we must also acknowledge that the ongoing nature of the investigation prevents us from sharing specifics that could jeopardize the integrity of this case,” Mr Contee said during the aforementioned press conference.
Mr Contee said that evidence will be presented to the US Attorney’s office and a jury that will then decide “whether a crime took place,” and proceed to indict the government employee or not. The male resident, who has a license to carry weapons, has since retained legal counsel, Mr Contee said.
The police department determined “there is no [imemdiate] reason” to revoke the man’s permit, the chief also said.
Under Washington law, lethal force can only be used if an individual has reasonable fear of an imminent danger or death to themselves or others — protecting property only does not legally justify the use of lethal force.
Community leaders have also pressed the department to be more forthcoming with information in the interest of justice and transparency.
Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White Sr told The Washington Post that he could not fathom “how a person shoots a kid in the community and admits to doing it and is not detained.”
“No car or material possession is worth a life – under any circumstances,” Ward 5 Councilmember Zachary Parker of Ward 5 said in a statement on Monday. “I join Ward 5 residents in calling on the Metropolitan Police Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to hold accountable the individual who took Karon’s life.”
On Tuesday, family members of Karon and outraged DC residents who slammed the rationale behind protecting the shooter’s identity attended a town hall to demand answers from officials.
Outside the gathering near Brookland Middle School, where Karon was a student, others chanted “No Justice, no sleep,” according to videos shared on Twitter.
“I didn’t know you could just kill somebody over property damage. That’s just crazy,” Mr Long, the teen’s grandfather, was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.
Mr Long told NBC that his family is grieving the loss of Karon and that regardless of the circumstances surrounding the altercation, the man should have never fired those shots.
“[A]13-year-old, he should be outside. He shouldn’t be outside. They’re right,” he said. “But that [doesn’t] give you the right to kill nobody.”
The network also reports that flyers have been posted in the neighbourhood where Karon was killed stating that a group has “compiled the names and identities of homeowners on the street and [intends] to be able to identify Karon’s murderer.”
Karon is survived by his mother and three siblings, Mr Long told NBC.
In a GoFundMe page set up to cover funeral costs, Karon’s mother Londen Blake described him as an “inquisitive scholar, who loved fashion and football.”
“...this is not something that any parent should ever have to go [through],” Ms Blake wrote in the description of the fundraiser.