A troubled man needed help. He got shot instead. How did that happen?

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Toward the end of his life, David Kerstetter trusted only his mother. He had counted on their daily phone calls. Susan Kerstetter always went through her own checklist, asking him if he was OK, if he was taking his meds, if he was eating.

His parents lived two time zones away in Peoria, Ariz., a Phoenix suburb. David, 38, lived on 13th Street NW about a block from Logan Circle in a place that he once shared with his partner, Paul. Paul died unexpectedly in October 2007.

Since then, David’s calls to his mother became that much more important. He needed to talk, recalls Susan Kerstetter, even though he’d sometimes blow off her questions. He’d joke she was being too much the Jewish mother, but he always called.

On Nov. 5, they talked three times. Around 8 p.m. on that day, David had a panic attack. He had just come from an appointment and was on his way home when he started to freak out. He called his mother and told her he was holing up in a room at the nearby Beacon Hotel and could not bring himself to go home.

Years before, David had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and ADHD. Sometimes he was good about taking his medication. Sometimes he was not. He tried to kill himself in the spring.

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Within the past year, David had grown increasingly convinced his neighbors were plotting against him. They were sneaking into his house through the attic. They were trying to plant drugs in his apartment. They were peeping through his windows. They had bugged his phones and had hired goons to follow him around. When he heard voices, Susan recalls, they were the voices of his neighbors up in his attic, whispering about what to do with David.

“People were watching him,” Susan Kerstetter remembers David telling her that night. She thinks he might have mentioned he had been followed to his 5 p.m. appointment, a meeting with the attorney who was handling his partner’s estate. David told her: “I don’t feel comfortable.”

Susan Kerstetter offered her son some sensible advice. “I told him if you don’t feel comfortable going home, don’t go home,” she says. “Maybe you could collect your thoughts and calm down.”

David said he would stay in his hotel room and order takeout. His mother asked about his corgi-chow mix, Pepper, and his cat, Six Toes. David assured her he had fed them and that they would be fine.

Two hours later, at about 10 p.m., David called again. He was talking from a pay phone, his paranoia coming down hard. “He sounded scared,” Susan Kerstetter says. “There’s fear in his voice.…I could tell it wasn’t him.”

David had gone home but it was no good. He told her his keys wouldn’t work.

“They locked me out of my house,” David told his mom. “They wouldn’t let me in. I don’t know what to do. I think they killed my dog because my dog’s not barking.”

Susan Kerstetter says that David pleaded with her to call a locksmith. She suggested it would be easier if he did it. He complained that his credit card wasn’t working, that he didn’t have enough change for another call. There was more back and forth, and David got frustrated.

“You know what, just forget it,” David muttered and hung up. It was the last thing he said to his mother.

Back in Arizona, Susan Kerstetter tried David’s cell phone the rest of the night. He never picked up. In the early hours of the following day, she called one of David’s neighbors, who agreed to check on David’s condo with the property’s maintenance man.

David Kerstetter lived at 1325 13th St. NW. The complex, named the Iowa, includes one multistory building and a courtyard in the back bordered by attached row homes. Kerstetter lived at No. 10. The front door opens to a set of stairs leading to a second-floor living room and kitchen. More stairs lead to third-floor bedrooms, including the master bedroom, and an office.

When the neighbor and maintenance man arrived at Kerstetter’s address, the screen in the storm door had been ripped out and the lock on the front door had been completely taken apart. The front door was open.

Shortly before 10 a.m., the maintenance man called 911. According to D.C. Police Department spokesperson Traci Hughes, the call was for the open door.

Two cops arrived—a rookie and a master patrol officer with more than 20 years on the job. They were greeted by the Iowa employee and led to Kerstetter’s condo.

The veteran officer, Frederick Friday, says the employee called up to Kerstetter, asking him if he could come upstairs. Friday says Kerstetter shouted back that he knew he was lying—that he was with the police and refused to let him upstairs.

The employee pleaded with Kerstetter some more. But it was no use. Eventually, Friday and his partner went inside. “We have to check—that’s our job,” Friday says. “Can’t just leave him.”

At some point, the police were with David in the master suite. The home’s interior design and lavish touches had once been featured in Metro Weekly, but when the cops walked in, the bedroom was a mess. Kerstetter was wearing only boxers. Neighbors say he appeared to have stopped eating; he was nothing but skin and bones.

Allegedly, Kerstetter was holding a knife when he met the two cops.

Kerstetter was shot multiple times, according to his mother, who cites the death certificate. He was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead a short time later.

Friday and his partner are on administrative leave with pay, which is a standard course of action in fatal shootings by D.C. police officers. In the coming months, the department will investigate the circumstances surrounding Kerstetter’s death, though D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier has already told the Washington Post her people acted in self-defense. She did not return repeated calls seeking comment.

What’s unlikely to come out of the investigation, however, is the answer to this straightforward question: How did a man who seemed to pose no danger to anyone besides himself end up being killed by the police in his own bathroom?

According to a police press release, officers were forced to use lethal force after “a struggle ensued.” The shooting occurred after officers “repeatedly ordered the man to drop the weapon.”

“He wasn’t a bad person,” Susan Kerstetter says. “He wasn’t a person that would attack somebody. Deep down, he was a person, he was still a human being. He had an education, and he could’ve had a future. When he was on his medication, he was OK. He could have lived a normal life.”

Previously, City Paper has written about the police mishandling of mentally ill suspects; the Department of Mental Health's response to the Kerstetter shooting; and the imperative that D.C. Police name the cops responsible for Kerstetter's death.

Download a letter from Kerstetter here.

UPDATE: Read two more letters from Kerstetter to his parents here and here.

Our Readers Say

Nice article. I hope you follow up as more information on the DC Police investigation is unearthed.
what a heartbreaking story. It will be interesting to see what comes out of the police investigation of this shooting.

is it true that the police have a policy of not releasing the name of the officer(s) involved in shootings? if it is true, i think that's a terrible policy. don't we have a right to know?
What a horrendous story in every way, except how it was written - beautifully poignant and tenderly. I hope to see an update in the future about what exactly happened, and the ramifications for the police. Police brutality is a serious issue - especially when it occurs against the mentally ill - there is inadequate training provided to police to handle the crazy and unpredictable nature of an interaction such as this with a mentally ill person and this just demonstrates that again, as does the case in Brooklyn of the police tasering a mentally ill man causing him to fall to his death - they said he was holding a weapon, it was actually a hairbrush.
Geeee,,,,,,My wife called the police a couple of times on me. Some calls were for nothing but her unfounded fear of my kept-in anger because of bad knee pain.

One time I was disposing of my sons rifle in the out door garbage thingy when the police car arrived at my door. I am luck to be alive, they did not notice me with the rifle at the end of the driveway at the garbage can in that touchy moment.
depending on the incident, releasing the names of MPD officers involved in a shooting could put them at serious risk of personal harm, being targeted after the incident, or even be killed themselves.
Hey Dick, I guess you would rather Friday have a knife in his chest. Do some research on knife attacks. Can't waif for your paper to fold
How is this any kind of police brutality? No wonder City Paper is bankrupt.

If someone were to try and fight me with a knife, I would try to defend myself too.
Anonymous - City Paper is bankrupt because of the new owners past financial mistakes. It has nothing to do with the papers quality or content. Dipshit. If you don't like it, why bother reading the stories and commenting about them?

This story was well-written - good job cherkis. Better than last weeks scrap yard story- yawn
Another good article...keep it up WCP!
This truly is a heartbreaking story. I live across the street and some of the police dispatched came to my apartment first on accident and ran along the back porch yelling at me, banging on the kitchen door, looking to get in. It was so frightening. I'm sure David was terrified by their abrupt and gruff manor. I understand that a job has to be done, but a man should never have to lose his life in such a sad way. My heart goes out to his family and I hope the truth is uncovered for their peace of mind.
This is an incredibly sad article about the needless shooting death of a plainly troubled man. When a mother calls a condo maintenance man because she's worried about her disturbed son, the last thing she envisions is that police might enter her son's home and kill him. It didn't have to end this way, no matter what authorities may claim down the road. Let's hope the city displays integrity and trains its police officers in how to handle those poor souls who have lost their ability to cope in this world. We should accept no less.
Tragic. There was no one who knew enough of his deteriorating condition to have him involuntarily committed?
I guess that's what happens when you bring a knfe to a gun fight.
it just goes to show you NEVER let a pig into your house. they are likely to shoot and kill you, your children or your pets for whatever reason they wish, knowing that no action will be taken against them as a result. all that it takes is the officer to claim he committed the murder in self defense and the shooting is completely justified. these officers entered the home of a man who they knew to have mental problems, provoked him in a extremely paranoid and distressed state, and then murdered him when he reacted to the provocations. there was a time when police were there to protect and help us. that time is long gone. the police have become agents of the state, the enemy of the people and it is getting worse. it is only a matter of time before we are living amongst a standing army.
If things had gone differently and this guy stabbed and killed one of those police officers, I'm sure you wouldn't have even wrote a story about it. This is a tragic event, and no matter how well you write about it, the police are not to blame. I'm glad a seasoned cop was there who was able to protect himself and his partner from this lunatic with knife.
Nice article, well written. It seems as if the family should have taken a more proactive interest in their troubled son/brother. Plenty of evidence from this article that he was not doing well on his own.
Police have a difficult job. They are just ordinary folks like the rest of us who are occasionally put into situations the rest of us never face. We’ve seen frequently that they make grave mistakes, this is not one of those times.

I find it pretty galling how little of role his (now concerned) family and friends had in this man’s life. A call or two a day from half a country away for someone this disturbed just doesn’t cut it. He was obviously, deeply disturbed and the fact that his family, psychiatrist etc would allow this man carte blanche is pretty disturbing. It must be very easy for his family to pass judgment from Arizona, when they’ve known for many years their son was extremely and critically unbalanced.

This police officers previous history with this guy, gave him more of an excuse to shoot the guy, not less. Friday had to deal with this guy before as he was trying to commit suicide. Everyone, his parents, his landlord knew of this man’s distrust and hate for “the police”. There were obviously a stash of knives in this mans bedroom, that he kept to fight the conspiracists, where he confronted police. I am not so sure why it is so hard to believe the police story, that an admittedly deranged man attacked/attempted to attack a police officer who shot him. I don’t care how “gentle” and “kind” he is when he is having a good day, or what he was like “deep down”, or happens to be taking his medication, the man was a clear danger to himself and everyone around him, and had been for years, and obviously posed a clear danger to these officers. Policemen aren’t telepaths. Case closed.

Again, as far as I am concerned the officers did exactly what they were supposed to do in a situation like that. This is indeed a tragic story and there was no real reason for this man to die The REAL blame should be laid at the feet of his obviously disinterested family. In situations like this, where the individual is clearly unable to make rational decisions, those decisions have to be made for him, which is what his family should have done, years ago.
It is cruel and tasteless to blame the victim's family, who live in Arizona, because police shot and killed their 38 year old son in his own home in the District of Columbia. David chose to move to DC and, from the details available thus far, his parents were supportive and concerned, staying in almost daily contact with him during the recent, troubled years. The courts, police, and District agencies had far more authority (and the tools) to seek his involuntary commitment some time ago if they believed that was appropriate and/or necessary.

There are many questions surrounding this death that eventually will be answered if there is a thorough and objective investigation. Yes, it's possible that the shooting will turn out to have been in self defense. But we should first address some troubling questions. Assuming, as the police chief asserted, that the condo maintenance man called police about "an open door", why did the police enter Kerstetter's home without a warrant AFTER he had told them (and the maintenance worker) that they had no permission to come upstairs? Assuming, as the police chief asserted, that "a struggle ensued", why were there no signs of a struggle nor any injuries to the officers? And assuming, as the police have asserted, that they knew Kerstetter was paranoid and feared for his life, why did they insist on entering his bedroom, uninvited, with guns?
Does anyone else worry about some of the details in this story? First of all, what was the crime that allowed police to enter a home against the wishes of the tenant? People are allowed to do or be or hold anything they want within the privacy of their own home, unless it's illegal - in which case police should have a reasonable suspicion of a violation prior to entering a residence.

You can be "crazy" in your own home, and unless police have a reasonable belief that a crime is being committed (or about to be) they should not be able to enter the home. That bar is (or should be) held pretty high - if you are dancing naked in your living room with no one around, and no one can see, police can't just "do their job" and intrude on your home. Remember, it wasn't that long ago where playing rock and roll at normal levels disturbed people who thought it was Satan's music, no matter what the volume.

Think about this - two men with guns enter your home without your permission. Might you pick up a weapon to hold between yourself and these two intruders? I would say that doing so might be a rational response, especially if you were prone to paranoia and fear.

So, what would have happened if the police had said "unless there is a crime committed or about to be committed, we can't go in to a private residence" and left? My guess is that someone would still be alive, and another would not be wrestling with thoughts about taking another human's life.

I know that police have a tough job, but remember that "To Protect and To Serve" applies especially to the person who is in his or her own home legally. Only once the police ignored the sanctity of the "castle" did this tragedy gain momentum.
Are you kidding me? Do you actually believe that a man wielding a knife "poses no danger to anyone besides himself"? Give me a break!!!

I'd like to see you reason with the paranoid, dillusional man carrying a knife. I mean, really.

Please, write some articles in support of police officers who have live and work in this stressful city, seeing the very worst in people. It's got to be one of the most difficult jobs in the world.

There is plenty of controversy in this town -people who are done wrong and need an advocate, you don't have to make up any drama. Ugh!
I see a lot of the comments point to how stressful police work can be. I agree that being a cop in this city can be tough.

But should the police have handled this case alone? Officer Friday may not have thought so. He says he called David Kerstetter's psychiatrist and others. But he couldn't get a hold of any of them.
The older I get - in my mid 40s now - the more contempt I have for the police. They're like combatants waging civil war against anyone who does not wear a badge.
Turns out Mr. Kerstetter's fear of police wasn't all that unfounded or dillusional.
Great story and well written. I am a neighbor of Mr. Kerstetter and knew him for over 10 years. He was very troubled and his anger and fear controlled his life.
I wish that your sensational headline "Man Killed in his Own Bathroom" matched the sensitivity of your story.
Remember he had a knife and threatened the police with it. He could be a very scary person when he was paranoid and angry. I am sorry his life ended this way and I am sorry for his family. Thank goodness he had his mother to talk to in recent months. He needed help but had trouble admitting that and I doubt that he would have ever gotten the care he needed. His recent life was a series of cries for help and he was clearly desparately unhappy.
Thank you for writing the story. Again, I am very concerned about your tabloid headline. This is a very complex story and it was not to your credit to reduce it to those headlines. Most people will not read the story. The police spent a lot of time with David and Paul over the years and are to be commended for their efforts.
Much has been discussed by those who've posted comments about this tragic event, and most of the discussion has been thoughtful and intelligent. Here's what bothers me and what the police haven't addressed: What legal authority did they rely upon to enter Kerstetter's home without permission? And why, knowing he was paranoid, did they corner him in his bedroom?

Better training and a bit of restraint seemingly would've prevented this from escalating to a situation where the officers felt it necessary to shoot and kill this man. If I'm flat wrong, maybe the police chief can explain it. Until then, I'm just wondering.
This is another example of DC not having its crap together. My daughter has autism & is very prone to violence when agitated. The police have manhandled my daughter, they put her into police cars with sirens blaring making her even more agitated, then they handcuffed her.
With this current mayors demanding that all out of state clients be returned to the District, & with us still having the type of non-appropriate services from the police & others, I am afraid we are going to see more of this.
If they did not enter the home, and this guy slit his wrists or attempted to hang himself as he once did, the argument would have been "why can't they just walk in and help the poor misguided lad", Come on now, you have a kicked in door, a screaming delusional individual (who you have a personal history of committing violent acts upon himself) who turned out to actually have a weapon, I say that is enough probable cause to enter the house, eh? You have a split second (literally) to make a decision when confronting a hostile situation. The officers have to make a decision, with very little facts, and with even less time.
I'm not buying the 'self-defense' crap. Dude was a 160-lb. bag (if that) of bones, no matter how one slices the butter. The experienced/seasoned cop had experience w/the guy before, and KNEW what he was like. I'm sure his skinny behind could've been subdued and restrained. Even if he lunged at them WITH a knife, a punch would've put him right out. Officers of the got-d*amned law are well trained in subduing suspects, I'm sure. I'm not understanding why they couldn't wound him and take him in from there. But MULTIPLE shots? Overkill. Overzealous (I wouldn't put it past the rookie, either) and power-mad brutality is what we have here, folks. Y'all can sugar-coat it all u want.
I understand the arguments with regard to police needing to defend themselves. However, there are lots of details that the author added that should give us all pause. Notably, the multiple gunshot wounds and the pattern that suggests (to me) that the victim was seated by the toilet or sink and was shot. I have trouble believing that he was threatening in that position.

And further, what about less-than-lethal force such as pepper spray? Are DC police allowed to carry that? That could have incapacitated the victim enough to disarm him and transport him for observation/treatment. Gunshot wounds? Not so much.
Big Tony: Do you have the recorded police officer statements? If so, please share them. If not, please point out where is the evidence: 1) that David was a screaming delusion individual that morning, 2) that anyone observed a kicked in door, and 3) that the police had reason to believe he had a knife before entering his residence?

Nobody from the MPD has publicly made such claims. So why do you?
Thanks to everyone on this board for their incredibly thoughtful comments. My two cents on a couple of things that've been said: Seems a bit unreasonable to go placing blame on the family for not caring. As the story makes clear, David relied on very frequent conversations with a loving mother. Yes, you could argue that the family could have done more, but that argument could be made in the aftermath of any such event. The available evidence says that David was so close with his family that he'd talk to his mom five times in a single day. The crux of the police conduct question is twofold: Did they have any legal justification whatsoever in crossing that threshold, especially in light of evidence that David told them to go away? And two--was there indeed a struggle, as the police department has said? Those are questions that we at WCP will follow up on. Thanks again for all your concern.
I agree with Wemple's analysis, and i hope that people continue to share their thoughts on this tragedy. In particular, why do we tolerate the city's silence? If its reason is because there is an ongoing investigation, then at least the city should promise to release the entire contents of the reports and give us a date.
Please continue to provide coverage as this moves forward. Why is it possible to "disarm" elephants, lions, tigers, and the like without harming them, in the interest of science, but police in the 21st century are unable to disarm human beings or render them harmless without killing them? I can only assume that this type of tragedy repeats endlessly because people with mental illness and people living in poverty are deemed throwaways -- expendable. Or is it that being a cop gives you license.
It seems the police were confronted by a person with a history of mental illness who had a knife. It is pretty much SOP that you never let anyone with a knife closer than about 20 feet from you. From inside 20 feet, he can be on you before you can react to defend yourself. I am not surprised that he was shot. The real story is why, with his history and what was currently going on in his life, was he living by himself with no supervision.
Interesting article that highlights a common lack of ability to place blame on the responsible individuals and dump it on the police. You also misrepresented Chief Lanier’s position, making it sound as if she had confirmed with certainty that the officers had acted in self defense without an investigation. What was said in the Washington Post was “Based on the initial interviews and other information Lanier received, she said it appears that the officers responded appropriately to a threat.”

Everything you wrote about Master Patrol Officer (MPO) Friday and his actions showed that he did everything he could to help David Kerstetter.

Mr. Kestetter had tried to kill himself in the spring…why is suicide by cop not even a thought in your article?

You pointed out that the officers on the scene sustained no injuries…would it have been better if they had been stabbed a couple of times? I got news for you….the Kevlar vests that are issued to the police only offer slash protection…they are not stab-proof.

So lets look at the scenario; A man who is aggressive and is known to fight with police officers, is also known to use crystal meth, is known to have mental problems, who is not taking his medications, and has tried to kill himself in the past, is now standing with a knife in very close quarters with the police in the bathroom. If he lunged at the police, how much time do you think MPO Friday had to decide to pull the trigger? Even if he just made a quick movement towards MPO Friday, do you think MPO Friday’s family would have wanted him to take a few extra seconds to decide whether the man lunging at their family member was REALLY a only a danger to himself? And the very idea that a mentally unstable man with a knife in that environment, in that kind of mental condition, and with that history, was only a danger to himself is rediculous. Would you feel comfortable standing in close quarters to that man under those conditions?!?! And do you really think that the officers just stood in the room and decided to execute Mr. Kestetter? Even after standing outside for 20-30 minutes trying to reach Mr. Kestetter’s psychiatrist and other people to help him?

So while you seem to focus on drawing into question the ability of the officers to handle the scenario they were faced with and doubt that they defended themselves, I applaud MPO Friday for doing his job. While Mr. Kestetter’s death (and life) are tragic, blaming the police officer who was (in all probability) faced with a split-second decision that would either send him home to his family if he defends himself or possibly to the morgue if he doesn’t, is unfair and inappropriate.

My sympathies go out to Mr. Kestetter’s family.
I see people wondering what legal authority the police had to go into Mr. Kerstetter's place. Are you serious? A screen door was ripped of the hinges and the main door had been completely taken apart....of course the police are going to have authority to go in and investigate! How does that not look like a break in?! Even if a man is yelling at the police not to come in, how are the police to know if someone had broken in and had the home-owner at gunpoint telling him to send the police away?
Dave: That is certainly a compelling consideration--thanks for raising it. But based on undisputed evidence, the officers don't appear to have been concerned in the least bit about the possibility of a hostage situation of the sort you raise. They waited outside for a period of time long enough to call around in search of psychiatric help. If they really thought an intruder was holding Kerstetter at gunpoint, you can bet that three-quarters of the region's law enforcement muscle would have congregated around the Iowa that day. Your point about the broken-down door providing ample justification for entry is a strong one, too. But there are countervailing considerations here, including the fact that Kerstetter apparently asked the police to go away and the fact that he had a troubled, suicidal history that one of the officers knew about. Knowing that this was a mental-health situation, why would they force a confrontation?
Erik - "the officers don't appear to have been concerned in the least bit about the possibility of a hostage situation of the sort you raise"

So because the man has a mental condition, they wouldn't hav eprobably cause to go in and invetigate the open door? The police had a legal right and obligation to enter the house and invetigate.

Erik - "why would they force a confrontation? "

Umm....would it be better off that they leave him in there to kill himself and go home?

It's always easier to blame others than to take responsibility. Mr. Kestetter was a threat to the police officer's safety and he reacted. DC police don't have Tasers, so MPO Friday used the equipment he had available. And if you think pepper spray was an option, forget it....not only is that not going to stop a person who's started lunging for you with a knife, it doesn't work on everyone and if you're high on crystal meth or psycotic, there's a good chance it won't stop you either. If I had a gun and was in the same scenario as MPO Friday, I would have done the exact same thing.
Dave: You are raising a lot of interesting points. I have calls out to a number of lawyers concerning some of the issues you have raised--namely whether or not the police had a right to enter Mr. Kerstetter's home.

One point I do want to make is that the police do have non-lethal weapons. They have mace and the metal baton. The question remains: Could the officers have used those tools instead of their guns?

I know that's a question the Kerstetter family raised with the police official they met with following their son's death.
Dave: Do you have inside information? Are you or a family member affiliated with the MPD? You suggest that Kerstetter was lunging at the police, yet I've not seen the police make that claim. You also suggest that Friday was in close quarters with the victim in the bathroom. Again, the police have made no such claim. Why are you so against people asking questions, and the city answering those questions? You sound like a juror deciding a case before the evidence has been presented. Sort of like Chief Lanier saying she "felt very comfortable" that this homicide was proper self defense BEFORE it had been investigated.
Dave: The officers forced a confrontation in a situation in which the person had told them to go away and in which the person was clearly posing a threat to no one else. I asked whether that was a prudent course of action. In response, you say the following:

"Umm....would it be better off that they leave him in there to kill himself and go home?"

That's what I call a false choice, and it's a hollow rhetorical device. As if not forcing a confrontation means automatically bailing on the entire situation. Consider this: The officer's first move in this situation was to call for help. He couldn't get anyone on the line right away. Then he went in. All I am asking is this: Perhaps going into that house was a job for someone trained in just these sorts of situations? As events unfold, perhaps we'll learn why they felt they had to go in when they did.
I can guarantee you that if those officers had done nothing and walked away after being told to leave by Mr. Kerstettler, and he had then injured himself in some way or killed himself, you all would be screaming at the police for NOT going in and doing something to try to stop him. It's a no-win scenario for the police in your view points.

The police do have a metal baton.....you try swinging it in a closed space like a bathroom and see how effective it is. As far as the mace....I'm not taking a chance on the mace working when my life is on the line. I would make sure that I go home to my family and stop the crazy man with a knife before he gets even one inch closer to ending my life.

To "Just Wondering" - Umm....the man was shot in the bathroom.....that's not a claim or an opinion...that's a fact. Read the article.

The officer stated that he shot in self defense.....what isn't to believe? Why do you doubt him? Do YOU have inside information? Are you connecting with Mr. Kerstettler from beyond the grave? Do you also doubt the neighbor who said "He could be a very scary person when he was paranoid and angry."

Like I said before...in a close quarters scenario like that, you can take all the time you want, but if I only have a fraction of a second to decide who dies....me or the guy with a knife and I feel he is an immediate threat to me, I can guarantee who will be carried out of there in a body bag. Do you REALLY believe that a MASTER PATROL OFFICER of 21 years just decided to take out his gun, point it at Mr. Kerstettler, and execute him? And this rookie cop is also going to lie and risk his future on this as well by lying for him? I highly doubt it....

And for Erik - He waited.....and if he waited longer and Kestettler killed himself, you all would be screaming at him for not doing anything. A suicidal man was having a psychotic episode...something needed to be done. How long is he supposed to wait? An hour? Three hours?

Clearly, some people here just love to think that by questioning everything, they're doing some kind of civic community watch on the police. Like I said, do you REALLY think you would have made a different decision to shoot if you were in the same scenario? Why question what MPO Friday and the rookie officer did....because the shower door wasn't shattered? What does that have to do with anything? Because there wasn't any injury to the officers? Would it have better if they let him stab them first?

MPO Friday made a brave decision to go in and confront a psychotic man with a knife, asking him to drop the knife. Mr. Kestettler decided not to drop the knife and MPO Friday had to make a horrible decision under stress. I only hope I would have done the exact same thing if I were MPO Friday, knowing that I would get to go home to my family. I applaud MPO Friday for his bravery....not chastise him for doing his job.

On that note…I’m not going to argue with people who think that they should approach every move made by the police with skepticism and turn it into a witch hunt. I'm done...I've more than made my point.
Dave: I'm about tapped out as well. I thank you for your contributions here--you make many great points. The only thing I'd like to say in closing is that a police officer is a public employee and his or her actions are subject to oversight by the government and the press. What we call oversight you may term uninformed second-guessing, and that's the tension that invariably crops up in these discussions. But we in the press, too, get second-guessed all the time--just look at these comments and the ones on our blogs. So doubting and questioning and probing are part of the grind, and it's the job of everyone not just to accept that, but to welcome it.
Dave: You've made your point, but you didn't answer the questions I posed... none of them. And by the incredibly strident tone of your postings, it's become plain to me that you or a relative likely do have a connection with MPD. Regarding your assertion that he was shot during a struggle INSIDE the bathroom, how would you explain bullet slugs embedded in the floor and wall OUTSIDE the bathroom?
Erik - Being a public employee does not mean that you or anyone else has the right to demand that every question they have be answered to the satisfaction of the person asking the question. If that were the requirement, nothing would ever get done. Yes, the shooting is being investigated. I'm sure that when the results come back that the officers were justified, people will cry that they covered something up...which is just sad.

"Just wondering" - You just keep making stuff up to make it fit your questions. It doesn’t' say that the other bullet was found in the bedroom. I'm not against asking questions, but your parents and teachers lied to you.....there are such things as bad questions. And the questions you're asking are ridiculous. You probably also think that the US Govt. planted explosives in the World Trade Center and that no plane actually hit the Pentagon. So while you're out looking into all these conspiracies, don't forget to look for Bigfoot, the Fountain of Youth, and a way to win at slots...those are all more likely to exist than your scenario where those officers were not justified in shooting Kestettler.
Dave: You're scaring me. I know you said you were done, but it's ok you didn't mean it. I'm sorry for asking questions, and it's ok you didn't answer them. I know a bullet was found in the floorboard outside the bathroom, but it's ok you don't believe me and I'm sorry for mentioning it. And I'll really, really try not to ask any more questions because I can see it makes you mad.

Oh well, last one. Do don't own a gun, do you?
Dave: Where did you ever get the notion that we in the press have a right to have all our questions answered to our satisfaction? We rarely if ever get any of our questions answered to our satisfaction, much less all of them. MPD has a grand tradition of closing ranks and stonewalling the press--just look at the DeOnte Rawlings case! Whose questions are being answered to their satisfaction there?

Another point: You appear to feel that some people on this board have fingered MPO Friday as having screwed up without knowing the facts. Yet you appear to have reached a similar level of certainty on this matter, only in the opposite direction.

Finally: No, it wouldn't be sad if people cried that the MPD covered something up. What would be sad is if no one cared, or if people were too afraid to cry out. Dave, you'll have to get accustomed to the notion that a sky-high level of scrutiny must be applied to this case. As the Washington Post said in its fabulous recent editorial about Rawlings, a police shooting isn't just another case, but rather goes to the heart of the relationship between the force and the people it serves. I will never, ever make any apologies to you or anyone else for vigorously pursuing all the facts, all the lines of inquiry, about this case and others like it. Stop bellyaching about people asking questions; that's our job.
Just wondering - Nope...I don't own a gun.

Erik - If that's your job to ask questions, try asking ones that are relavant. Wondering why a cop shot a psychotic meth using knife wielding suicidal man in a confrontation can be answered by my 5 year old nephew.
hey Dave, is your last name Friday?
"urban pioneer" - That's the best joke you can come up with? Go back to bed little man.
Hi Jason,
>
>Thank you for sharing this article with me. Unfortunately this story
>is all too common in the mental health world. However there is hope on
>the horizon. In Virginia the implementation of CIT (Crisis
>Intervention
>Team) for Police and Connectional Officers in currently is being set in
>place. In fact; this week in the Hampton/Newport News 24 Police and
>Correctional Officer at participating in 40 hours of CIT Training. This
>is second set of officer to go through this type of training this year.
>This program is designed to equip Officers with the tools and knowledge
>required to deal with the exact situation that lead to Mr. Kerstetter's
>death. I would like to think that if the Officers that responded, had
>received this type of training, the outcome would have been entirely
>different.
>
>If you interested in following up on CIT go to http://www.nami.org/ And
>search on CIT.
>
>Bob Williams
>President
>NAMI Hampton/Newport News
>NAMI VA Board Member 2007-2011
It sounds like this was a troubled man with serve mental health issues. I have never seen so many comments in the City Paper on an article. Is it because this guy was white and gay? If he had been black, Puerto Rican, Dominican, or West Indian heterosexual man, would he have gotten this many comments from the readers?
Max: interesting observation. I suspect people have many reasons for commenting. For example, Dave obviously is a cop who likely knows Friday. And Wemple/Cherkis are doing their jobs: asking questions about a police shooting death that occured under questionable circumstances. Some commenters may be drawn to the story because David and his father both served their country in foreign wars. Others may be concerned about how we deal with emotionally disturbed residents.

Certainly 14 year old DeOnte Rawlings, also shot and killed by police, was neither white nor gay. And his case has attracted far more media and public scrutiny than David Kerstetter's death.
Another victim of psychiatric drugging.
I never had a sucidal thought until I was drugged - in the name of "mental health".
I was Tazered by the police for being between them and a friend who was trying bto withdraw for psychiatric drugs.
I survived.
She is still drugged.
Organized psychiatry is a deadly menace.
Nope...not a cop and I don't know Officer Friday. But I do have a couple friends who are cops in other areas of the country and know the crap they get for doing a job that gets over-glamorized on TV and in movies, when in reality, it's a tough and underapreciated profession. How many of the people who have complained about Officer Friday have to put on armor and arm themselves to go to work every day?
I wondered why all my anti-cop posts suddenly got a burst of recent attention.

I will never side with the DC Cops. Living near a 7-11, I get to see dozens of them standing around night after night, year after year, doing nothing. I've been to their little citizen meetings where they like to tell you all the good they've done. They are as ill equipped to catch a rat in this city as they would to catch a criminal or have any sort of confrontation NOT end in gunfire on people who were in no way a threat.

Let's not forget the Swann Street murders and how they screwed that up.

Let's not forget killer of a British man in Georgetown...the killer had mugged someone weeks earlier and had his enlarging penis medicine he bought with the victims stolen credit card sent to his house. Victim gets call from credit card company, calls police to say, "I know where my mugger lives" and the police respond with "Well, we don't have probable cause to search." Then he goes out and kills the guy in Georgetown.

Nice city we live in.
Hey Velvet - How about the Georgetown Starbucks murder? What about the recent arrests for the shooting in Trinidad? What about the multiple arrests of the young man in Columbia Heights who was credited with more than 20 muggings (but was let go by the US Marshals)? What about all the other murders and crimes the police do solve?

And they've arrested three people for obstruction of justice on the Swan St. murder....how did the MPD mess that up?

And here's some news for you.....cops are allowed a break. If they chose to spend it at the 7-11, so be it. You go ahead and slam the cops all you want....they do a job every day that you could never do and they would still go and help you if you called for them. That says a lot more about their character then you could every try to break down.
Velvet - I forgot to add, that I do agree somewhat with your comments regarding the Georgetown/Adam Senitt murder. The articles and information available do seem to show that the investigators were slow to establish the connection. Although just having an address where stuff purchased with a stolen credit card was sent to doesn't mean that you can bust in and arrest everyone in the apartment and charge them all with the robberies. But there should have been more of an effort to set up surveillance and a line-up faster than they did.

Was that incident less than stellar work by the MPD...it looks like it. But to say that it means that Kerstetter wasn't a threat and that Officer Friday decided to execute him is asinine.
"And they've arrested three people for obstruction of justice on the Swan St. murder....how did the MPD mess that up?"

How did they mess it up? Um, how about by waiting three years to do it.

And they are allowed a break? Really? For four straight hours smoking cigarettes on the sidewalk and eating donuts? Sign me up!!!

Obviously you're a cop. And an incredibly angry person as evidenced by your stalking of this article and the comments and arguing with anyone who has an opinion that differs from yours.

Facts are that the cops in this city are among the worst of many metro areas.
Wrong all around. Go and enjoy re-runs of Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly.
Dave: Scroll up about 19 or 20 comments. You said then you were done, that you'd made your point. So why have you posted about a half dozen comments since then? Most of them are fairly insulting to other commenters. Try to chill.
Why it Matters - Well I'm offended that you think that my only motivation for feeling passionately about this topic is that you think I'm a cop who knows Officer Friday (again...which is incorrect).

I'm just still trying to understand how anyone can honestly think that a suicidal, aggressive, psychotic, knife wielding, bi-polar, ADHD, crystal meth user who was known to have fought with the police before can be viewed as someone who wasn't a danger to anyone. $1,000 to anyone who can make me understand that.
Why do the police always have to KILL someone with a weapon that's not a gun? Shoot the guy in the knee for godssake, walk away. Self-defense? Hardly.
Police shot him because the police department doesn't train officers properly in dealing with mental illnesses. Instead of calling in mental health crises professionals, like every book on this topic strongly emphasizes, the cops did just the opposite. They cornered a paranoid man against his will, in his own bedroom, and confirmed his worst nightmare ----- that the police had come to kill him. If Kerstetter had a gun in his home, it could've been the cops who got shot instead. Of course, with proper police training, nobody gets hurt, and Kerstetter gets treated like the ill man he was.
The MPD is lacking a real plan or program to handle situation such as this one.
It is nothing short of an oversight by Chief Lanier.
The officers are lacking the general knowledge of how to handle mental patients and how to determine the difference mental illness and brain injury.
My experiences with the department is tenured, my partner has a brain injury.
MPD is lacking basic knowledge on how to work with people with such illness.
There is also a force issue in the department. It is serious and problematic, yet remains unresolved.
They are basically behind on their training and behind on the basic principles on how to handle situations.
This particular one sounds as if the officers rushed in and became frightened and ended up using force, un-necessary force!
It'll be most interesting now to see how this one is resolved.
im glad they killed him, he would have killed my family.
Not sure who this Joe Pluck guy is... or what he read in the article to suggest David was a killer or that he posed a threat to the whole Pluck family. It is this kind of irrational bigotry and willful ignorance of the facts in the story that lead to more stories like this where the police based on little but their own bigotry and ignorance murder one of the citizens they are supposed to protect.

This story is incredibly tragic. I hope that City Paper continues to follow the story and at the end of the day the truth about what happened between the police and David comes out in full.
This is a very sad story and one that demonstrates the inability that the MPD officers have in dealing with people that have emotional problems.
It is sad that two officers felt so threatened by one slight built man that they had no other choice in their minds than to shot him. Not once in the legs to stop him or bring him under control but shot numerous times and striking the victim in such a way that he died at the scene.
This speaks to the core of problems in basic training both within the MPD and the District's Department of of Mental Health.
Mistakes happen but clearly in this one, a life has been lost!
Investigation, how can we depend solely on the MPD to investigate itself in this situation? Far more training is needed and must be done now!
This is so sad. I went to college with David and we were friends, but I lost track of him after school. He was very addicted to drugs at that time, and it was hard to maintain the friendship after I moved away. I can't believe this is how he ended his life. He was a wonderful, caring, thoughtful, fun loving man.
It is a sad story to read. However, no one questions the responsibility that David had to take his medications. He knew he was a danger to himself and to others by not doing so. Everything that Kerstetter did was an attempt to deal with his illness, albeit the incorrect way. Aggression, drug addiction, suicidal tendencies, neglecting oneself, these are all symptoms of his mental illness not qualities that he would have exhibited otherwise.

As much as we would like to blame the officers for acting irrationally there is due process for everyone. The situation is being investigated and until they conclude one way or the other what happened we should respect the process. If the process is flawed then attack the system and change it.

I'm not blaming Kerstetter to suggest that the situation could have been avoided had he not stopped taking his medication. But It played a huge role in what happened, possibly a larger role than that of the officers that shot him.

Do the police actually have more of an obligation to protect us than we have for protecting ourselves from danger? I don't agree.

I am sorry what happened to him. Dealing with mental illness is a tough, tough, tough thing to do and it appears that his family really loved and cared about him and wanted him to be well.
Paranoid man killed in home 2 months ago by officers who entered without warrant and against homeowner's wishes. "Investigation" by police ongoing, yet all details hidden from the public ---- no date in sight for the release of the "investigation" findings or details. And guess what? The autopsy report "isn't yet complete" ---- though Kerstetter was cremated in mid November ----- and thus the report can't be released. Anybody wanna guess how many bullets were recovered from his body? Way too many ..... and that's not counting the rounds that missed him.

So welcome to DC, Mr. President-elect. Welcome to a city where our elected leaders don't feel a need to answer to the citizens when they kill one of us. Pathetic!
Ummmmm breaking news they don't need a search warrant in that situation. Not to mention as he was a renter NOT a home owner. The owner of the property or agent thereof can allow police access. This could be different in WA, tho.

Also, there is no certain number of shots that should be fired in such a situation. Shooting to wound is also a Hollywood fantasy that gets people killed in real life. Police are trained to shoot to stop-period.

I'm not saying it was justified as I wasn't there and all I have to go off of is the info the media puts out.
David Kerstetter was not a renter. He owned his condo.

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