Mayor calls for more beat police after Capitol Hill killing

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray said Thursday that the “horrific” Christmas Eve killing of a 28-year-old Capitol Hill man is a rallying call to put more police officers on the beat in neighborhoods across the city.

Gray (D) said that the investigation into Jason Anthony Emma’s killing was progressing but that he had not been briefed on any new leads in the case, which has rattled residents who live in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol. Police officials have said they believe that the motive was likely robbery.

Emma was shot 13 times early Monday after parking his black Audi in the 1200 block of C Street NE, according to a police official with direct knowledge of the investigation.

“This is a very sad case,” Gray said. “These are the things that remind us we need as many public safety officers on the street as we can get.”

A close friend and roommate said Emma was attacked moments after he parked on C street in a residential area just north of Lincoln Park. Police said the Audi’s engine was still running when officers responded to the scene and found his body inside the car.

The search for suspects continues. Gray, meanwhile, said he plans to use the tragedy to pressure the D.C. Council into approving plans for an additional 100 police officers. A week before Emma was killed, the council rejected Gray’s request to spend $1.7 million in budget savings to hire 48 new officers.

Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D), outgoing head of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, argued that the council needs more time to determine whether more beat officers could be created by moving officers with administrative jobs. Only council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) voted for Gray’s budget request.

At the same council meeting, Mendelson and other members voted to lower fines for traffic citations, potentially eliminating revenue that Gray planned to use to hire new officers.

“I’ve been trying to get the council to see that even though we have increased the number of police officers, we still need more police officers,” Gray said. “If people don’t feel safe, they are not safe.”

The District’s police force currently has about 3,900 members, which Chief Cathy L. Lanier previously indicated was sufficient. But Lanier now says that more officers are needed because the city has been adding about 1,000 residents per month, along with more night-life venues.

Lanier recently disbanded a citywide narcotics unit, returning nearly 30 officers to patrol districts.

Mendelson did not return calls seeking comment on Thursday.

Gray said he plans to resubmit his plan to the council in January, using Emma’s death to argue that “there are continued instances that make the case for more law enforcement officials on the street.”

Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) said he, too, will urge his colleagues to back the mayor’s plan when they return from the holiday recess.

“I gave Chairman Mendelson the benefit of the doubt, but I urge the mayor to resend it to the council, and I will support it and encourage all members to support it,” Evans said.

Evans called it “absolutely ridiculous” for Mendelson to argue that the District can increase the number of police officers on the street by encouraging Lanier to reassign officers from desk jobs.

“If that were going to happen, it would have happened by now,” Evans said.

On Capitol Hill, residents are anxious over the apparent randomness of Emma’s slaying. Robberies have been a persistent problem in the neighborhood, and one that occurred two days after Emma was shot has concerned some residents.

Police said that in that incident, at 8th and E streets Northeast at about 11:15 p.m. Wednesday, a 37-year-old man was robbed at gunpoint by a man with a black semiautomatic handgun who had been seen earlier circling the neighborhood in a gold-colored, two-door car. A police official would not discuss a possible connection to Emma’s killing, saying only that detectives are looking at all crimes to see if there were possible links.

Meanwhile, in a death notice published in Thursday’s Washington Post, Emma’s family made its first public statement since his death.

“Jason, you have left us with many wonderful memories, and we hold you in our hearts forever,” one line reads.

Tim Craig is The Post’s bureau chief in Pakistan. He has also covered conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and within the District of Columbia government.
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