Four guilty of first-degree murder in 2010 shootings; fifth convicted on lesser charges

May 7, 2012

Five District men were convicted of murder Monday for their roles in the deadliest mass shootings in the city in decades, a series of attacks in early 2010 that left five people dead and eight wounded.

The verdict came after a two-month trial and more than eight days of deliberations in D.C. Superior Court. The jury foreman’s baritone rose and fell as he read more than 200 “guilty” verdicts in the hundreds of charges against the men.

Orlando Carter, 22; his brother Sanquan, 21; Jeffrey D. Best, 23; Robert Bost, 23; and Lamar Williams, 23, were convicted of murder and a range of other offenses.

Sanquan Carter tugged at his necktie as the verdicts were read. His rage initiated the deadly events after his bracelet disappeared at a party and, thinking he had been robbed, he called his brother for help.

Best, the only defendant to testify, smiled and shook his head as he heard the verdicts; he whispered to Bost, and both smiled. Williams remained silent and looked straight ahead.


Lamar Williams, left, was found guilty of second-degree murder. Four other defendants were found guilty of first-degree murder. Clockwise from top center: Jeffrey Best, Robert Bost, Sanqaun Carter and Orlando Carter. (Courtesy of U.S. Attorney's Office)

Judge Ronna L. Beck is scheduled to sentence all five on Sept. 11. During a news conference outside the courthouse, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. said his office would seek the maximum sentences — life without parole for Best, Bost and Orlando Carter, more than 300 years for Wiliams and more than 100 for Sanquan Carter.

His office was determined that they “never take another step outside of prison or take a breath of free air again,” Machen said.

After the bracelet disappeared, three of the men opened fire on a group of partygoers on Alabama Avenue, killing Jordan Howe, 20. According to prosecutors, no one in the group that came under fire knew anything about the missing piece of costume jewelry. Friends of Howe failed in a revenge attempt on Orlando Carter’s life, and he went on to plot shootings that killed four others.

The Carter brothers, Best and Bost were found guilty of multiple offenses, including first-degree murder, conspiracy and assault. Williams, who authorities said was not present at the shootings but supplied weapons and helped plan the attacks, was found guilty of multiple counts of second-
degree murder, assault and conspiracy.

Prosecutors Michael Brittin, Bruce Hegyi and Adam Schwartz used more than 1,000 pieces of evidence, including DNA, surveillance images and charts detailing cell phone conversations between the men around the times of the shootings, to build their case.

They also called more than 100 witnesses, many of whom testified that they saw the men together before, during or after the three shootings over eight days in March 2010.

Prosecutors admitted that they sometimes worried as the jury of seven women and five men deliberated for more than a week. As the days passed, Hegyi said, he and his colleagues began “second-guessing” their work.

“You worry and you hope that with the skills you bring, and the skills your team brings, that you did enough,” Hegyi said.

The prosecution’s main witness was Nathaniel Simms, 28, himself one of the shooters and a friend of the other five. Arrested soon after the final attack on March 30, Simms pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and agreed to cooperate with authorities.

Simms spent five days on the witness stand, giving detailed and emotional accounts of each shooting, who was involved and each of their roles.

Prosecutors made Simms the center of their case, calling him to the stand early in the trial while using witnesses and bits of evidence to bolster his narrative — mindful that he was an admitted multiple murderer who had agreed to deal with authorities.

Simms confessed to pointing an AK-47-style assault rifle out of the passenger window of a minivan and shooting randomly into a crowd on South Capitol Street, many of them mourners who had attended the funeral of Howe earlier that day.

Jurors who agreed to speak after the verdicts were read called Simms’s testimony influential but said they relied heavily on other evidence. Some were skeptical of his account.

“We gave him some [credibility], but not all,” said a 50-year-old male juror. “All he’s trying to do is get out.”

Simms is to be sentenced separately. That hearing has not been scheduled.

Attorneys for the men argued that their clients were innocent. Sanquan Carter, his attorneys said, fired into the crowd of party­goers on March 22 only after he believed that he had been robbed of his bracelet and had grown fearful for his life when someone else indicated that he had a handgun. Jurors rejected that defense.

Best testfied that he was not present at any of the shootings and accused Simms of inserting him into his account as revenge for Best stealing his drugs. Prosecutors found his DNA on a jacket seen during the March 22 shooting, but Best said he had worn it weeks earlier.

Authorities said Best and the Carter brothers opened fire outside the party on Alabama Avenue, killing Howe and wounding two others. A 20-year-old woman testified during the trial that she placed Sanquan Carter’s bracelet on her wrist after he set it down and then wore it home.

A day after that attack, Sanquan Carter was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. That same day, according to authorities and testimony, some of Howe’s friends attempted to kill Orlando Carter. He survived, authorities said, and began to plot revenge.

Howe’s funeral was March 30. That day, according to authorities, Orlando Carter steered a rented minivan as he, Simms, Best and Bost drove into a Southeast Washington neighborhood in search of weapons.

At an apartment complex on Galveston Street SW, Best and Bost shot and killed Tavon Nelson, 17, as they tried to rob him of a handgun.

Minutes later, Carter, Best, Bost and Simms drove up to a group standing on a sidewalk in the 4000 block of South Capitol Street, where teens were wearing memorial T-shirts and carrying programs from Howe’s funeral. Carter brought the minivan to a brief stop in front of the crowd, and the occupants began shooting.

Bri­shell “Bri” Jones, 16, DaVaughn Boyd, 19, and William Jones III, 19, died in that shooting. Six people were wounded.

None of the victims was connected to Orlando Carter’s shooting, according to testimony.

Friends and relatives of the victims and the defendants appeared regularly in the courtroom during the trial. Family members of the victims seemed to bond, while many who testified against the men broke into tears.

“I think there are some very, very hard, sobering lessons that came out of this case,” a 43-year-old male juror said. “We all felt very much for the victims’ families as well for the families of the defendants. There are lots and lots of victims here.”

In the hallway after the verdicts were read, members of the victims’ families hugged prosecutors and detectives.

Tears ran down the face of Norman Williams, Howe’s father. His mother, Diane Howe, said she woke up Monday at 3 a.m. in tears with the feeling that the verdict was near.

She came to the courthouse straight from her job as a Metrobus driver, and she wore her uniform as the verdicts were read.

“They got what they deserved,” Howe said. “They were nothing but devils.”

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