When their 16-year-old son Chase asked to go to the 10:30 p.m. July 22 showing of the new Barbie movie in Silver Spring, his parents David and Louise refused. The teen had suggested “Ubering” back and forth. However, his parents felt a return ride at that hour was too dangerous.
So, Chase decided to go for a run, choosing a regular route from home to Kingman Heritage Island Park (KHIP). He promised to return before his 9:30 p.m. curfew.
He did not. At around 9:20 p.m., David got a call. Chase wasn’t going to make curfew, the teen dryly informed his annoyed parent.
There is a gunman in the park, he told his father as nearby shots rang out, clearly audible over the phone. The teenager was calling as he huddled under a blanket with two strangers in the woods.
Yards away, unknown to the three, a wounded victim lay bleeding on a picnic table.
Another 40 minutes passed before Chase and his companions saw a police officer. And, it would be several hours more before he was reunited with his parents.
In the interim, police arrested the gunman. At least a dozen officers had arrived on scene.
More Details Emerge
The outing to the park had been a consolation prize. Disappointed at not seeing the movie, Chase ran through the park gates, located not far from the busy Fields at RFK. at about 9 p.m.
The trails at KHIP park wind around about 50 acres of natural area on two island in the Anacostia River.
Jogging on the trail, just over the bridge between the two islands, Chase encountered a man on the trail, a crutch under one arm. The stranger ordered, “get on the ground.”
Instead, the cool-headed teen calmly replied: “Chill, man.”
When the man raised his gun, repeating the command, Chase fled. He stopped to warn a couple strolling through the park on a first date that they were heading towards a gunman. The trio hid in the woods under a picnic blanket.
A few minutes later, Chase called his parents. On the open line to their child’s cell phone, his terrified parents rushed to the scene while listening to the quiet murmur of the man in the couple placing a call to 911 at about 9:15 p.m.
“Pray for me,” said the teenager over the phone, fearing death would come in the dark.
“Every time I heard a spate of gunshots,” said David, an aide worker during the Iraq War, “I wondered; ‘did I just hear my son die?’” He cannot stop the words replaying in his mind.
Soon, the trio saw a helicopter spotlight.
“We thought we were saved,” said Chase. However, no help arrived. 15-20 minutes later, Chase’s companion placed another whispered call to 911. “They forgot us,” the teen remembers him saying after hanging up.
The Official Account
A timeline reconstructed from police reports and court documents shows that police first received a report of a gunman in the area of the gates to KHIP (3100 Benning Rd. NE) at about 9:13 p.m. The call came from a different individual who had been threatened by a man with a gun. That victim said the gunman could still be in the woods.
Fifth District officers were dispatched to the address. With the aid of Sixth District and Park police colleagues, they secured a perimeter and conducted a canvass of the area. They did not find either the gunman or victim.
There is no record in police reports of the first 911 call made by Chase’s companion.
But between 9:25 and 9:30 p.m., a separate Fifth District squad car received radio reports of a gunman near the RFK campus and gunshots near Kingman Island. It was this set of officers that apprehended the suspect, Tyrone M. Taylor, just inside the gates of the park at 575 Oklahoma Ave. NE, at 9:35 p.m.
Officers found Taylor lying on the ground on top of a crutch. Nearby, they recovered a Canik TPS9A semi-automatic. The pistol can fire up to 19 rounds, according to the manufacturer. Police found an empty magazine nearby.
A Fifth District detective made a connection between Taylor and the 9:13 p.m. incident at the same location. After calling police, that victim had left the park. The detective rounded up the victim and brought him to the scene where he identified Taylor, laid out on a stretcher.
Police charged Taylor with “Assault with a Deadly Weapon.”
Why did police take so long to locate Taylor? Dependent on his crutch, he was neither moving rapidly, nor hiding quietly. In fact, police found him on the ground fallen on top of his crutch. The teenager’s family had heard him fire off multiple gunshots for over twenty minutes over their child’s open line.
A Needle in a Haystack
When the 911 operators received the first call from Chase and his companions, police were already responding to a report of a gunman on Kingman Heritage Island Park. However, the 9:30 response tracks most closely with the second call made from under the blanket.
It is unclear why the police canvassers missed the sound of gunshots. Taylor allegedly emptied the magazine of his pistol between 9:15 and 9:30 p.m.
However, Kingman Heritage Island Park is difficult both to locate and search. It has two entrances, one on Benning Road and the other from the RFK parking lots. “We have had trouble with police, not knowing how to find their way into and out of the park,“ said Lora Nunn, vice president of the Friends of Kingman and Heritage Island Park.
Nunn’s organization placed numbered posts along the trails to ease identifying specific locations in the park. They also have joined police walk-throughs to familiarize officers with the area. Given recent MPD turnover, it is unclear whether this knowledge has been transmitted, she said.
Another factor may be the location of Heritage Kingman Island Park itself. It sits at the intersection of the First, Fifth and Sixth Districts. For example, its Benning Road entrance is in the Fifth District while its main gate bordering the RFK parking lots is in the First District.
Back Under The Blanket
While the police secured the gunman at the gate, the trio remained under the blanket. They sheltered unaware that officers were hunting for the gunman or that they had successfully apprehended him.
Chase’s parents are shocked that the police failed to locate their son or arrest Taylor sooner.
“This was an active shooter situation,” said David. “I don’t care how they [police] characterize it.”
At 10 p.m. the sheltering trio received a call that the police were on the scene. At 10:02 p.m., the newly-arrived First District Crime Suppression Team made contact with them as they emerged from under their blanket in the woods. The three directed police to the wounded victim, lying on a picnic table near the river.
Where is My Child?
Walking in the door after two-weeks out of town dealing with a family emergency, Chase’s mother opened the front door to her husband on the phone with their only child, who was hiding in the woods from a gunman. She dropped her luggage and turned around.
With Chase on speaker, the two parents raced across town to find their son. The teen urged them to stay away, fearing they might be shot.
Much like the police, the parents struggled to locate their child in the park. GIS instructions led them first to the Kingman Park neighborhood on D Street NE. When they finally arrived at the main park gate around 9:30 p.m., they discovered officers rushing back and forth.
“Nobody engaged us, other than to ask for directions to the crime scene,” the mother said. “They just told us to stay back.”
Police refused to share information, characterizing the park as an active crime scene. An officer finally broadcast via his radio there was a minor on scene. A policeman was stationed near where they waited; he acted like a guard rather than a liaison, the parents stated.
Their first sight was of the gunman, not their child.
“They wheeled him (Taylor) out on a stretcher,” Louise said, describing him as an older African American man. He was “screaming, just raving,” she continued.
“And, he looks me right in the eyes and said, “they shot first!” the Louise recalled.
Why did you do it? she wanted to ask Taylor. But, more importantly, she wanted to see her son.
Finally, at 11 p.m., the parents were permitted past the park gate. They rushed to embrace Chase with tears in their eyes.
“Told you that you should have let me see that movie,” the teenager said.
Louise and David’s relief quickly turned to anger when they found Chase had been interviewed alone twice by police, despite officers being aware of their presence on the scene.
Legally, police are permitted to interview children in public without parents being present. Children, much like adults, have the right to refuse to answer questions. However, few are aware of that option.
Grateful at being reunited, the family sat “glued together” on a bench near the park’s main gate for an hour. Repeatedly, they asked officers if they could go home.
One policeman told them they needed to see if the shooting victim died, in which case the crime would become a homicide. They were also told that detectives were delayed due to another shooting. According to official records, two people were shot at 9:54 p.m. that same evening on Gerald Street NW.
“And I was thinking, are there not enough police to also cover an incident in Kingman Island?” Louise recalled.
Around midnight, yet another detective arrived. He insisted on separating the teen from his parents. “You’re going to contaminate his witness testimony,” they recall him saying.
The teen was placed in a squad car with the door open at his father’s insistence. Officers told the parents of their intention to conduct further questioning at “the office.” The parents refused. They were allowed to depart only after police conducted this third interview with their child.
Chase’s family understands their good fortune. Things could have taken a much darker turn. What if the teen had gotten on the ground as directed? Would police have discovered his bleeding body lying on a picnic table?
The family is also grateful for the police.
“If they had not come and apprehended the shooter, I feel certain that my [child] would be dead,” David said. “They got the guy, and they rescued my son.”
Louise, however, remains shocked that she and her husband were kept from their son so long without information; and that Chase was interviewed multiple times without them, despite their standing only yards away.
Chase’s perspective has also been radically altered. “I walked out of that park with a different view of the police than I had when I walked in,” the teen said.
While DC law requires police to inform victims of support services, the family was not provided with any information. They finally connected with counseling through someone who commented on an online post. The Office of Neighborhood Engagement (ONE) has said in public meetings that they contact every victim of gun violence.
The family remains traumatized, startling at sudden noises, fearing separation, replaying the long call repeatedly in their heads.
“Our pain doesn’t matter more than anybody else’s,” said David. “But you shouldn’t have to crusade to get this kind of understanding. We are lucky that we are resourced enough to do it. No one should have to.”
Since the incident, the family has learned about a June attack on another jogger on the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail. That man was robbed and brutally beaten.
Hours after the family returned home, another gunman attempted to rob a young neighbor across the street. The assailant fled after that young person’s father ran towards him shouting, “I have a gun!”
“This is where we live now,” said the Louise, who has lived in the area for 25 years. The family continues to wonder if that decision remains their best choice.
Taylor is being held without bond pending mental assessment.
MPD did not reply to repeated requests for comment prior to publication, citing the ongoing investigation. The Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE), which has oversight of KHIP, referred inquiries to MPD. ONE also did not respond to a request for comment.