The shooting Tuesday near a Southeast Washington high school that injured two students and a man was the result of a “spontaneous reaction to a dispute,” according to D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier, who said video surveillance might be released to the public soon.
“There is lots and lots of video we are looking at,” the chief said at the mayor’s regularly scheduled news conference. “You really cannot carry out a crime in public space today and not be caught on it somewhere. We are confident we are going to have someone in custody before too long.”
The shooting just after 9 a.m. left two 17-year-olds with wounds to the leg and hand, and a 20-year-old was shot in the abdomen. The teens are believed to be students at Ballou High School, which is about four blocks from the shooting in the 3100 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE.
Police have released few details of the shooting but said it occurred near a bus stop and appeared targeted. A D.C. police report says it appears that the 20-year-old was the intended victim and the two 17-year-olds were bystanders. The report says a gunman approached the man “and fired approximately five to six shots at him.” At least one bullet shattered a window of a cellphone store.
The gunfire erupted on a busy street in the heart of the Congress Heights neighborhood, along what is dubbed the neighborhood’s “Main Street.” It’s also a well-known hangout for teens and young adults, some of whom attend Ballou. On Tuesday, some residents complained about the loiterers and questioned why more wasn’t being done to get them to school and off the streets. The shooting occurred about 15 minutes after school day had started at Ballou.
Lanier said the street is one of many so-called “safe passage” routes for students to walk to schools without getting threatened by crews or other criminals. She said the police truancy van and officers were in the area when the shooting happened, but they have a difficult time stopping disputes that break out quickly and without warning.
“Yes, there’s a lot of loitering and hanging around, and yes kids do dawdle along their way to school and along that route,” Lanier said. “But there is a fine line between harassing children and trying to keep them safe and pushing them off to school.”
Lanier said police had no intelligence about any lingering dispute along Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue. She noted that even when police do have tips, such as ones that warned of violence four weeks before a shooting outside the National Zoo on Easter Monday, it can be difficult to prevent.