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An Official Expression Of Outrage

City to Attack Crime Where Boy Was Shot

By Ruben Castaneda and Clarence Williams
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, March 27, 2005; Page C01

Standing near the spot in front of a Columbia Heights apartment building where a 9-year-old boy was shot in the head, leaving him near death, D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said yesterday, "Enough's enough."

"Somebody knows who did this shooting," Ramsey said during a news conference at a building that officials and neighbors said has been plagued by crack cocaine and marijuana dealing. "In a city of more than 600,000 people, I don't believe that no one other than the shooter knows who did this.

Resident David Leopold, who heard Thursday night's shooting, speaks with Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) after a news conference about crime in Columbia Heights. (James A. Parcell -- The Washington Post)

"We need them to come forward," he said.

As the victim, Donte Manning, remained in very critical condition yesterday at Children's Hospital, Ramsey and other city officials, including Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D), gathered on the steps of the Warner Apartments, in the 2600 block of 13th Street NW, to decry the violence and pledge to do what they could to stamp out drug dealing and violence around the building.

Residents and officials said two shootings occurred near the building last month. Donte lives in the building with his mother and stepfather.

Just before 10 p.m. Thursday, a gunman opened fire in front of the building, where more than a dozen children were playing. Donte was the only one hit. A private security guard, hired by the company that manages the building, was nearby.

Earlier in the evening, narcotics officers served a search warrant on a suspected crack dealer who they said operated out of his unit in the Warner Apartments.

Police said they have no description of the attacker and know of no motive for the shooting and do not know whether it was connected to the raid or to the drug trade.

But D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who participated in the news conference, said he believes the attack was drug-related.

"All I can come up with are two words: substance abuse, substance abuse. Drugs, drugs, drugs," Graham said.

Graham referred to the slaying this month of Wanda R. Alston, who was acting director of the city's Office of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs and a member of the mayor's Cabinet. The man -- a neighbor -- charged with fatally stabbing Alston in her Northeast Washington home told investigators he was high on crack at the time of the attack, according to police charging documents.

Graham predicted that if and when police make an arrest in Thursday's attack, the suspect will turn out to be an addict. Graham called for increased funding for substance abuse programs.

Williams said the management firm that runs the Warner Apartments has for years tried to evict problem tenants. The mayor said that tenant protections are important but that officials should try to "strike a balance" that would ensure the safety of law-abiding renters and the rest of the community.

On Friday, city building inspectors swept through the apartment building and found a handful of violations, none of which constituted a serious safety hazard, said Patrick J. Canavan, acting director of the city's Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.

Inspectors found that the locks on the building's front doors had been disabled and gave the building manager an hour to fix them, Canavan said. The locks were fixed within the hour, he said.

The building's owner and management company are planning to install security cameras and increase the hours that security officers patrol the building, Canavan said.

Some Warner Apartments tenants said Friday night that drug dealers have operated brazenly in recent years.

Kendra Pearson, 30, said she and her daughter Jeniqua, 6, would walk through the front door of the building into the hallway last year to face crack smoke and crack pipes.

"The drug activity going on around here is terrible," Pearson said.

When Donte's mother left the building Friday night, Pearson embraced her and whispered words of encouragement. "Donte is going to make it," she said. "You trust in God."

© 2005 The Washington Post Company