Suspect in D.C. Nightclub Shootings Freed by Mistake

By Allan Lengel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 2, 2005

A D.C. jail inmate who police say wounded four people in a hail of gunfire at a Northwest Washington nightclub was mistakenly released from custody more than a week ago and remains at large, the D.C. Corrections Department said yesterday.

Yesterday's disclosure, made in a one-paragraph statement, said Migual Harris was set free because of a paperwork mix-up. The disclosure triggered an angry response from the D.C. Council member who represents the Shaw neighborhood, where the mayhem occurred.

"It's unbelievable," said council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1). "Here's somebody who is armed and dangerous. He fired 31 shots and wounded four people, and he was mistakenly released back in the general population. It's very upsetting."

Graham added, "Whoever did this needs to be held accountable."

Harris was arrested Nov. 14 on suspicion of carrying a pistol without a license, authorities said. The arrest came minutes after four men were shot and wounded outside Kili's Kafe in the 2000 block of Eighth Street NW.

They suffered wounds described at the time as non-life-threatening.

Four days later, Harris, 24, was released without posting bond on the gun charge, a practice not considered unusual with such charges.

The next day, Nov. 19, Harris was arrested and charged in the nightclub shootings with assault with intent to kill while armed, authorities said.

According to the Corrections Department, Harris appeared in D.C. Superior Court on the shooting charge Nov. 21 and was returned to the jail with a document authorizing his release.

After Harris's release, corrections officials received documents ordering that he be held without bond, the Corrections Department statement said.

Corrections officials would not say whether the release order for the gun possession charge might have been mixed up with the judge's order to hold Harris on the shooting charge.

Leah Gurowitz, a Superior Court spokeswoman, provided a different account, saying no judge issued an order Nov. 21 to release Harris.

"Mr. Harris was never ordered released in the assault-with-intent-to-kill case," she said.

Harris's whereabouts were not known. The Corrections Department statement said a joint law enforcement task force was searching for him.

D.C. police complained yesterday that the Corrections Department did not notify them until a week after Harris was mistakenly released.

Graham expressed similar concerns, saying he learned of the incident yesterday through the media.

"I'm wondering: Were they trying to hide this? Was it going to go away?" he said.

Staff writer Serge Kovaleski contributed to this report.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company