Rich spent two decades in prison, during which the number of people killed in D.C. plummeted. His conviction two decades ago, and his violent death this year, connect two wildly different moments in the history of crime in the District.
The killings in the early ‘90s turned the nation’s capital into the country’s epicenter of violence and drug abuse. The image is different today. Just days before Rich was fatally stabbed on the afternoon of Jan. 10 outside a liquor store on Alabama Avenue in Southeast Washington, the District’s mayor and police chief hailed a milestone: 88 slayings in 2012, the fewest in 51 years.
Each number, of course, corresponds to a name, and added up over the years the statistics and faces blur — more than 7,000 killed in D.C. since 1988, when murders began to surge at the onset of the crack cocaine epidemic. Victims’ families grieve, though there are fewer of them now; they cope with pain that does not diminish even as statistics say the city is now safer from the gravest category of crime.
Rich’s wife, Miah Rich, 37, grew up in Southeast Washington and was in high school when the shootings soared. “Massive numbers,” she said of the dead and wounded, recalling losing friends and classmates. “Killing became so routine it became scary,” she said. “Death became a way of life. I knew grandmothers and all their friends who were still alive, but their grandkids weren’t.”
Miah Rich was a friend of Raasheem’s at that time. It was just four months after his 18th birthday, in June 1990, when he saw Anthony Miguel Anderson with his girlfriend at a carnival at RFK Stadium and fatally stabbed him in front of a Bank-A-Ball game booth. A jury found him guilty, and he was sentenced to 12 to 36 years in prison.
Rich disappeared behind bars at the peak of the District’s homicide epidemic. There were 52 slayings in January 1989 and again in January 1990, according to Washington Post records. A D.C. police study of murder from 1998 through 2000 concluded that more people were killed in the first three months of those years than at any other time of the year, confounding conventional wisdom that hot summer nights ignite passions and create killers.
Over the ensuing years, the number of murders dropped not only in Washington but also in other cities. New York set a record low in 2012 with 414, and like Washington, the Big Apple is holding firm this month. Slayings are also down this year in Philadelphia and Baltimore; Boston, which had 59 slayings in 2012, is one of the few large cities other than Washington boasting single-digit homicide numbers this January, with three.