Six Homicides This Year Closed as Self-Defense

In September, police say, 21-year-old Joel Johnson went into an apartment in the 200 block of First Street Southeast intending to rob the person who lived there. It was an attempted crime that ultimatly cost Johnson his life.

MPD says that a man inside the apartment struggled with either Johnson or his alleged accomplice, Jaren Holley. A gun was fired during that struggle, and Johnson was struck. He was declared dead at the scene and two months later MPD closed the case, saying Johnson’s death was justified; the shooter had been acting in self-defense.

Johnson is one of six people this year whose deaths in D.C. have been ruled justified homicide by citizen, more commonly known as self-defense. Four of those deaths occurred in 2012; a further two were cold cases closed by self-defense this year.

The reasons given for self-defense are varied: in two cases, including Johnson’s, police determined that the homicide victim had been attempting a robbery. Another case was ruled self-defense when the reason for the shooting turned out to be a neighborhood feud. Another was described as an “argument,” and the reason for self-defense in the two remaining cases is officially listed as “unknown.”

Self-defense cases are legally considered homicides, but not murders. Because of this, when MPD announces their year-end murder count, Johnson’s death, and others ruled self-defense, will not be included in the death count.

Their names: Stephen Horsley, Dalontray Williams, Jerry Williams, Joel Johnson, Iyesha Blyther, Michael Coach.

Horsley and Williams were killed in separate incidents two weeks apart in January.

Horsley, a 19-year-old Northeast D.C. man, was shot and killed on Friday, Jan. 13, just after 11 p.m. in the 4600 block of Benning Road, Southeast. Sources familiar with the case said that Horsley was committing a robbery when he was killed and MPD records list the motive of homicide in his case as robbery. According to court records, Horsley had never been arrested or charged as an adult in any case.

Dalontray Williams, a 19-year-old from Northwest D.C., was stabbed Thursday, January 26 just after 7 p.m. After being stabbed he went to the Kennedy Recreation Center on 7th Street Northwest; he was transported to a local hospital and declared dead. Police believe he was stabbed about a block away from the rec center. A source familiar with William’s case said that he was stabbed in a fight; MPD lists the motive of homicide in his case as “neighborhood feud.” A grand jury was called to investigate Williams’ death but the US Attorney’s Office did not proceed with the case, a source said. Williams was arrested in July on suspicion of misdemeanor drug possession and the case was dismissed.

A source familiar with Horlsey’s and Williams’s cases said neither man had extensive criminal histories, nor were they known to be significantly involved in criminal activity.

Jerry Williams, a 22-year-old man from Northeast D.C., was shot and killed on Monday, July 30 at about 11:43 p.m. MPD closed the case as self-defense about a month later, listing the motive as “unknown.”

Joel Johnson, a 21-year-old Southeast D.C. man, was fatally shot Wednesday, September 19, at approximately 8:26 p.m. Police said he was attempting to rob a home in Southeast D.C. Johnson, according to WJLA, had pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact in the 2010 murder of Brian Betts, a Shaw Middle School teacher, in Silver Spring, Md.

In addition to these cases, two of the prior-year homicides which MPD closed this year were closed as self-defense cases.

MPD said that the person who shot and killed Michael Coach in 1989 was acting in self-defense, though the motive is listed as “unknown.” Coach was 32 years old and lived in Southeast D.C. when he was killed.

The person who fatally stabbed Iyesha Blyther in 1998 was also acting in self defense, police said. The motive in that case is listed as “argument.” Blyther was 24 years old and living in Southeast D.C. when she was killed.

These six cases represent a little more than 11 percent of all homicide cases MPD closed in 2012. Cases were most commonly closed by arrest. Of the remaining closed by means other than arrest or ruling a case self-defense, one suspect died before prosecution, the US Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute another, and the reason for closure was not released in three cases.

MPD provided limited details of the self-defense cases, as well as details on 2012 case closures in general, to Homicide Watch D.C. as part of a Freedom of Information Act request. The records provided by MPD are below.

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