D.C. police arrest suspect in 1999 killing; case linked to spate of slayings in SE 15 years ago

District police arrested a suspect Tuesday in a fatal shooting nearly 15 years ago — a case dating to a period of extreme violence in Southeast Washington linked to warring street crews.

The case is one of several involving murder charges pending in D.C. Superior Court in what officials say are related killings that occurred more than a decade ago. The two defendants are in their mid-30s, and authorities described motives as diverse as drug dealing, personal slights, arguments over women and turf battles.

The trials could bring closure to families of at least four people slain 14 or more years ago.

Prosecutors seeking to consolidate the trials have filed documents saying that the defendants grew up in the same neighborhood and that they “aligned themselves as one unit in defense of one another against prosecution by law enforcement and against others considered to be rival crew members.” That included, prosecutors said, a conspiracy “to assault and kill rivals whose interests were contrary to their own.”

The document states: “To this end, shootings and murders regularly were committed for and on behalf of fellow crew members.” The area was around the territory known as “Simple City” — primarily encompassing Benning Heights, a sprawling public housing complex that The Washington Post described in 1997 as “an inner-city war zone.” Three gangs operated there — Simple City Crew, Circle Crew and the Avenue Crew.

In the arrest Tuesday, Anthony Gray, 35, of Southeast Washington was charged with first-degree murder while armed in the Feb. 22, 1999, shooting of 18-year-old Kelvin Howard. According to court documents, the suspect went by “Fat Tony” and was one of the alleged henchmen of the Avenue Crew. The documents state that Gray and another man shot Howard as he sat in a car with family members and that the killing was part of a feud between two families.

At the time of his arrest, Gray was in jail facing first-degree murder and kidnapping charges in the July 5, 2000, shooting death of Robert McManus. Authorities allege that McManus was targeted because he saw a killing and was to be a prosecution witness. Gray’s attorney, Richard S. Holliday, declined to comment on either case involving his client.

Also charged in Howard’s killing is Cedrick Shuler, 36, of Southeast Washington. In addition, Shuler faces charges in two more deaths, including a murder charge in the March 1999 killing of 29-year-old Edward C. Gray. Court records state that Edward Gray, who was not related to Anthony Gray, was shot in the head while driving a green Chevrolet Tahoe in Southeast Washington after he interrupted a burglary of a relative’s house. Shuler’s attorney declined to comment on the cases.

Shuler is serving a 20-year prison sentence in the slaying of Renee LaShawn Best, 26, in February 1998. Best, described by prosecutors as an innocent bystander, was shot in the face in Southeast Washington. Shuler shot her as he fired at a man he believed had killed one of his friends hours earlier, prosecutors said.

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