Police Say Shooting at NE Home Where Girl Died Wasn't by Chance
By Henri E. Cauvin and Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, May 16, 2004; Page C04
When 8-year-old Chelsea Cromartie was shot to death this month in Northeast Washington, the attack seemed terrifyingly random -- the street, the house, the timing.
But the home on 52nd Street NE was not struck by chance, as police first suggested, when Raashed Hall allegedly opened fire and sent a volley of stray bullets crashing through a living room window.
Authorities have since said the May 3 shooting was payback, meant to avenge a violent confrontation at a carryout store that evening a few blocks away on Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue.
Chelsea's teenage cousin witnessed the trouble outside George's Carryout and returned to her home with a teenage friend, police said. Court documents show that the cousin and her friend watched a car circle the block several times before the vehicle stopped across the street from the house.
Raashed Hall, 21, was in that car, which was driven by his brother Ricardo, 23, police said. Raashed Hall has told police that he recognized the teenagers as among those at the carryout that night.
In charging papers, police quoted Raashed Hall as saying that he leaned across his brother and fired several times at the teenagers from the driver's-side window.
Neither teenager was hit. One bullet hit Chelsea in the head. Another bullet hit Chelsea's aunt, Darlene Taper, in the shoulder. Chelsea's family was visiting Taper's family that night.
A few days after the shooting, Taper said that her daughter was in the house when the gunfire began. Others in the living room that night included Taper's 11-year-old son, Chelsea's mother and Chelsea's 5-year-old brother.
Taper had described a chaotic scene in which everyone was trying to get to the floor and seek cover. In a follow-up interview this week, she declined to talk about who was on the porch, explaining that police have advised her not to speak about the case.
"No matter what was going on outside, it wasn't right that I was hit and a child died in my house," Taper said. "There was no excuse for that."
The Hall brothers have been charged with first-degree murder and are being held at the D.C. jail.
The charging papers rely heavily on statements that prosecutors have said the men made to police. According to the documents, the brothers detailed the events leading up to the gunfire and the shooting itself. Ricardo Hall also told police about his effort to discard the gun and car, the charging papers say.
Once the charging papers were released, it became clear that the original account of the shooting provided by police was incomplete.
Police initially issued a statement saying that the gunfire came from a "passing car" and "was directed at one or more individuals walking in front of the home." Although police said from the start that they were looking into the disturbance at the carryout, they said nothing to suggest that there was a connection between that incident and anyone at the house.
Law enforcement officials said they wanted to protect the identities of potential witnesses.
Police said that charges still could be filed against others involved in the dispute at the carryout. During that fight, someone smashed the windows of Raashed Hall's car, police said. Hall told police that someone shot at his car as he left the scene, but police said they have no proof of that.
D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said that authorities still view the shooting in the 800 block of 52nd Street NE as a random crime.
"It's random in the sense that the girl was hit," Ramsey said, referring to Chelsea. "It's random in the sense that a young girl who had nothing to do with it winds up dead. . . . It was still a stray shot that killed this girl."
Staff writer Petula Dvorak contributed to this report.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
Police quoted Raashed Hall, left, as saying he leaned across brother Ricardo, right, in a car and fired at teens, who were at the home of Chelsea Cromartie's aunt.
(William J. Hennessy Jr. For The Washington Post)
Outrage Speeded Probe of Killing (The Washington Post, May 16, 2004)
2 Brothers Were Shooting At Teens, Prosecutors Say (The Washington Post, May 12, 2004)
NE Man Charged in 8-Year-Old's Death (The Washington Post, May 11, 2004)
Tears for Another Slain Child (The Washington Post, May 9, 2004)
Slain Girl's Aunt Says She Can't Bear to Return Home (The Washington Post, May 7, 2004)
At Chelsea's School, a Most Painful Lesson (The Washington Post, May 6, 2004)
Reward Doubled in Search for Killer (The Washington Post, May 6, 2004)
The District's Young Victims (The Washington Post, May 5, 2004)
A Surge in Killings of Children (The Washington Post, May 5, 2004)
Stray Shot Kills Girl at Aunt's NE Home (The Washington Post, May 4, 2004)
_____Editorials & Opinion_____
A Child's Wounds From Stray Gunfire Outlast Our Outrage (The Washington Post, May 10, 2004)
The Bad, the Ugly and the Good (The Washington Post, May 8, 2004)
Audio: Colbert I. King
'An Amazing Girl' (The Washington Post, May 8, 2004)
Our Sickness Is Killing Our Children (The Washington Post, May 5, 2004)