July Homicide Total Rises to 14 in District
Wednesday, July 12, 2006; 10:10 AM
D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey reacted yesterday to a recent surge in homicides by declaring a "crime emergency," a move that gives him the freedom to quickly adjust officers' schedules and restrict their days off.
Fourteen people have been killed since July 1 in the District, in all quadrants of the city, and police are being pressured to take action by residents at community meetings and vigils to honor the dead.
The victims included a popular store owner slain at closing time, a community activist killed in a park and a British citizen whose throat was slit in Georgetown.
The most recent to die was 23-year-old Michael Dorsey, of Capitol Heights. He was found shot in the chest just after 2 a.m. this morning, in the hallway of an apartment building of Gallaudet St. NE. Three other people were also shot in the city overnight, but were expected to live, police said.
"You can't make sense of it because it doesn't make any sense," Ramsey said yesterday, hours before Dorsey was slain. "Thirteen people is simply unacceptable by anyone's standards. We have to do something right now."
The declaration came on the same day that Ramsey transferred a police official who was accused of making a racially insensitive remark at a community meeting Monday night in Georgetown. Ramsey temporarily reassigned Inspector Andy Solberg, who urged residents to report suspicious activity and said, "This is not a racial thing to say that black people are unusual in Georgetown."
Ramsey had declared three previous crime emergencies since becoming chief in 1998, the most recent in December after four people were killed in six hours. The declaration gives him the power to quickly shift the department's 3,800 officers to areas and times they are needed most. He can change schedules without giving officers 14 days' notice, as required under the union contract. Ramsey said he will increase patrols in hard-hit neighborhoods and put nonuniformed officers on the streets to help provide the increased coverage.
Eleven men, two women and a 16-year-old youth have been killed in the city since July 1. About 25 hours before Dorsey was killed, Laquanda Johnson, 24, was found fatally shot in the 3600 block of 22nd Street SE. A suspect was arrested yesterday afternoon in Suitland.
Despite the recent uptick in violence, the 95 homicides recorded in the city so far this year is only one more than the total committed by this date in 2005. But the number of robberies is up 14 percent, and Ramsey and other commanders are concerned that more holdups will turn deadly.
"Robbery is a very dangerous crime," Ramsey said. "You are literally one movement away from it being a homicide."
Three of the hold-ups occurred in late May on the National Mall, a part of the city usually untouched by crime. Late last night, two more robberies were reported on the Mall. The robbers targeted a family of four from Missouri and two women from Texas, police said. One woman was sexually assaulted in those attacks, police said.
Police have linked robbery and homicide in the slaying early Sunday of Alan Senitt, 27, a British citizen who was caught by surprise while walking a friend home along a tree-lined street in Georgetown. Senitt's throat was slashed and his friend was nearly raped, police said. Four suspects are in custody -- including a woman who allegedly drove the getaway car and a 15-year-old who authorities want to prosecute as an adult. Senitt had been working in Washington with a political action committee set up for former Virginia governor Mark R. Warner (D).