The Pentagon Force Protection Agency officer fired his gun outside the Takoma Overlook Condominiums in Takoma Park just after 5 a.m. Wednesday, police said.
He “engaged” the men “who failed to follow his direction,” prior to opening fire as they attempted to leave the scene in a car, according to the Takoma Park Police Department’s press release.
The men, identified as Dominique Williams, 32, and James Johnson, 38, died after being taken to a hospital, police said.
The officer has been placed on administrative leave following the incident.
Police may use firearms off-duty in car thefts if they suspect the vehicle poses an “imminent threat of death or serious bodily harm” to the officer or others, according to a statement from the Pentagon.
Elrich also said the officer “had no authority in Montgomery County.”
“It’s wrong how he got killed,” said Johnson’s aunt, Denise Johnson. “I’m just heartbroken about what happened.”
Community activists are demanding that Takoma Park Police release dispatch calls and body camera footage from responding officers.
“This was a wrongful shooting,” Seth Grimes, a Silver Spring (Md.) Justice Coalition activist told WJLA TV. “This is not someone who has been trained to handle interactions with community members. But this case illustrates why we need transparency [and] use of force rules governing police officers.”