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Boy Shot While Playing in NW

Drug Bust Made Moments Before

By Clarence Williams and Allan Lengel
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, March 25, 2005; Page B01

A 9-year-old boy was shot in the face and critically wounded last night as he played with other children on a sidewalk outside an apartment building in Northwest Washington, D.C. police said.

Investigators said a man standing on a corner started firing a handgun down the 2600 block of 13th Street in the Columbia Heights area about 9:50 p.m., in the direction of several children. Police were trying to determine whether he had been shooting at someone other than the children. About a half-dozen shell casings were found at the scene.


Officers speak with a woman at the scene of shooting in Northwest Washington. Several children had been playing outside on 13th Street in Columbia Heights when someone began firing a handgun. (Carol Guzy -- The Washington Post)

"This is the worst, the most dreadful thing," said D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who represents the area and went to the scene last night.

The boy, who was unconscious when police arrived, was in critical condition last night at Children's Hospital, police said. Chief Charles H. Ramsey said the bullet had lodged in the back of the youth's head.

"You've got a nine-year-old boy who is fighting for his life and for what?" Ramsey said. "It's just absolutely stupid."

Police had targeted the area around the apartment building after two shootings in recent weeks, officials said. The three-story building occupies about half the block, dominating the streetscape among a row of attached houses.

Cmdr. Larry McCoy, head of the 3rd Police District, said that police had been on the block minutes before the shooting conducting a drug raid. After seizing cocaine and arresting two men and a woman, the officers had left the scene.

"Unless you have someone on every block, I guess you're not going to stop" all the violence, McCoy said.

Late last night, the department's special victims unit was investigating and helping the boy's relatives cope with the shooting. Child's clothing and a bicycle were still on the sidewalk.

Before the shooting started, the child's mother had just left the spot and was returning to her apartment, he said.

"We're going put some incredible pressure on these little thugs around here until someone gives something up," Ramsey added.

The shooting was one of at least three within about 20 minutes in the northern section of the District.

Cmdr. Hilton Burton of the 4th Police District said officers responding to the report of a shooting at 11th and Gallatin Streets NE about 9:30 p.m. found a man shot to death. The victim was not immediately identified.

Minutes later, police were called to the 100 block of Kennedy Street NW, where two men were shot and wounded. The injuries were not believed to be life-threatening.

Several of the city's most high-profile slayings in recent years have been attributed to stray gunfire.

Last May, a stray bullet crashed through a living room window in Northeast, fatally striking 8-year-old Chelsea Cromartie, who was watching television while visiting her aunt. About three weeks later, a 12-year-old girl was struck and injured by a stray bullet while on the porch of a house in the Petworth area, probably caught by happenstance in a feud between rival drug groups, police said.

In May 1999, Helen Foster-El, a grandmother, was fatally shot while ushering children to safety when gunfire erupted outside her home in East Capitol Dwellings.


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