Mother of slaying victim testifies at trial of men accused of killing five

The mother of a District man whose 2010 slaying set off a series of shootings that left four others dead and nine injured broke down in tears in D.C. Superior Court as she described hearing a hail of gunshots and seeing her dying son slumped over in the driver’s seat of a car.

“It sounded like a war was going on,” Diane Howe told jurors Thursday. It was after midnight, and Howe was in bed on the third floor of an apartment building in the 1300 block of Alabama Avenue where her son, Jordan Howe, 20, and others gathered the night of March 22, 2010 for a party.

Diane Howe said she jumped up, ran outside and asked people where her only child was. One of her nieces, covered in blood, said he had been shot.

Howe ran to the car and tried to hold her son but was fearful moving him could cause more harm. “Don’t leave me Jordan,” she recalled saying. “You promised me you wouldn’t leave me.”

Several people told Howe that her son’s childhood friend, Sanquan “Bootsie” Carter was one of the shooters in an incident that left two others injured, she testified. Howe had known Carter, 21, for more than a decade.


The bracelet, gold painted with pieces of glass glued on it to look like diamonds, that was the center of the Jordan Howe slaying. Sanquan Carter was wearing the matching ring when he was arrested a day after the shooting. (Courtesy of U.S. Attorney's Office)

Diane Howe’s testimony came in the trial of five men charged in her son’s shooting and two others. Prosecutors say Carter, his older brother Orlando Carter, 22, and friends Jeffrey D. Best, 23, and Nathaniel Simms, 28, armed with an AK-47-style-assault rifle, a .380 pistol and a 12-gauge shotgun — weapons, prosecutors say, which were supplied by Lamar Williams, 23 — descended on building after Sanquan Carter told them someone stole his bracelet, a gold-painted piece of jewelry with rhinestones.

A day later, Orlando Carter was injured in a shooting that prosecutors say was retaliation for Howe’s murder. Prosecutors say Carter then organized friends, including Robert Bost, 23, to orchestrate a retaliation shooting.

On March 30, the day of Howe’s funeral, Orlando Carter, Best, Bost and Simms allegedly shot and killed Tavon Nelson, 17, while trying to steal Nelson’s gun. Minutes later, the men drove to the 4000 block of South Capitol Street SE and opened fire on a crowd of mourners. Three teenagers were killed and six others were wounded.

Attorneys for all five men said their clients were not guilty. Simms later pleaded guilty to five counts of second-degree murder.

Howe had no knowledge of the bracelet. During the March 22 party, Howe’s girlfriend Keya Harrington, unbeknownst to anyone, picked it up from a dresser and placed it on her wrist. Harrington, 20, told jurors she “forgot” she had the bracelet when she left. That evening, she testified, she watched Carter searching for something but he never said what he was looking for.

Norman Williams, Howe’s father, shook his head as Harrington testified. “It seems so surreal that five young people are dead over something they never knew anything about, a bracelet,” Williams said later. “It’s senseless.”

Keith Alexander covers crime, specifically D.C. Superior Court cases for The Washington Post. He has covered dozens of crime stories from Banita Jacks, the Washington woman charged with killing her four daughters, to the murder trial of intern Chandra Levy.
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