AP's Navy Yard photos unrelated to shooting? D.C. man who says he was in them tells his story

Eric Levenson raises many good questions about two pictures AP pulled from the wire Monday. They purported to show bystanders helping a victim of the Navy Yard shootings. The photographer, Don Andres, told MSNBC: "I don't know if it's related" to the violence.

Mandy Jenkins of Digital First Media tweeted her doubts: "Still pretty confused as to how a wounded man was dragged to CVS from the Navy Yard, it's at least 3 blocks away." Other questions remained, as well: Why was there no sign of blood? Would people have picked up and moved a gunshot victim to the ground on a concrete street corner?

James Birdsall may hold some answers. Birdsall is a structural engineer at the Parsons Corporation, a firm with an office at 100 M St. SE in Washington, D.C. That's very close to the CVS in front of which the photos appear to have been taken. Some of his colleagues saw a woman in a violet shirt pull an injured man from her car. Birdsall, who called Poynter to share his story, said he saw that she was performing chest compressions on the man and noticed she didn't have an automated external defibrillator.

Birdsall grabbed his firm's AED "and ran over to help out," he said.

Birdsall was wearing a blue shirt and khaki pants Monday. He sent me a photo of himself after I requested one. His face isn't visible in the pictures. But his story casts doubt on easy conclusions about the photo's truth.

When Birdsall arrived with his AED, "It became pretty evident that he was shot," he said. "He had an entry wound on the left side of his face."

The woman kept repeating a first name that matches one of the victims as he helped try to revive the man. She was saying the victim's name "pretty intensely," he said. She didn't appear to be a relative but they apparently knew each other.

An ambulance arrived and removed the man. "It seemed like it was driven by cops," Birdsall said.

A spokesperson for George Washington University Hospital told journalists Monday that a victim who had been shot in the left temple "was pronounced dead within a minute of arriving at George Washington University Hospital," Michael D. Shear and Michael S. Schmidt reported in The New York Times.

“This injury was not survivable by any stretch,” a hospital official told reporters. “The patient was dead on the way to the hospital.”

Birdsall didn't get the names of his fellow bystanders. After the ambulance left, he cleaned up some blood-spattered items on the ground, depositing them in the trash. He went back to work and "put in a request for a new AED," he said.

Don Andres, the passerby who took the photos, works for U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford of Nevada. When I called Horsford's office earlier this afternoon, the person who answered said Andres was on his way to the bathroom; he has not yet returned my call.

James Birdsall says he's the man in the blue shirt and khaki trousers in this photo. (Click image to view larger.)
Here's another photo. Both were taken by Don Andres. (Click image to view larger.)
  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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