A Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office employee who works with victims of gun violence has been placed on administrative leave and is being investigated for fatally shooting a man who tried to rob him Tuesday morning, law enforcement officials said.
DeVonte' Douglass, who aids victims of gun violence as a peer crisis responder in the office’s Crisis Assistance, Response, and Engagement for Survivors (CARES) program, is being investigated for fatally shooting Vernon Harris, 31, just before 10 a.m. Tuesday in the 2600 block of North Napa Street in the city’s Strawberry Mansion section, authorities said. Harris, described by authorities as a male prostitute, tried to rob Douglass at gunpoint, police said, and Douglass shot him in the chest.
Douglass, 28, who lives in North Philadelphia, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Police have made no arrests in the shooting, which is being investigated by the state Attorney General’s Office because of the obvious conflict the DA’s Office has investigating a case involving a staffer. The shooting was first reported by news outlets including KYW Newsradio and the website BigTrial.net.
Jane Roh, spokesperson for District Attorney Larry Krasner, said Douglass has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the state investigation.
“This is an active investigation that has been appropriately referred to another agency," she said. "We have no further comment at this time.”
In an April DA’s Office newsletter, Douglass was described as one of the CARES employees who “are finding creative ways to keep taking care of their clients” despite coronavirus restrictions. “They are going through trauma, but I’m there for them and understand their pain," he said. "I’ll listen to their pain, no matter if it is a five-minute or three-hour conversation.”
Jacklin Rhoads, a spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office, said the DA’s Office referred the case to her office, citing a conflict of interest. She confirmed that Harris is the man who was killed.
Court records indicate that Harris, who lived on the1800 block of Harrison Street in Frankford, has an extensive arrest record, including a 2019 arrest for aggravated assault, robbery, theft, and related charges, court records show.
U.S. Attorney William McSwain, a frequent critic of Krasner’s, blasted the DA’s Office on Twitter when he learned that one of its employees had fatally shot someone.
“Your Philly DA’s office: where Krasner hires an employee who allegedly ends up shooting and killing a man. You can’t even make this stuff up. The destruction that Krasner has wrought on that office is a tragedy.”
Krasner has previously dismissed McSwain’s criticism as politically motivated.