By Robert E. Pierre and Michael E. Ruane
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, July 14, 2006; A01
The surge in killings started just after midnight July 1 and has barely let up.
A former church usher was gunned down in a courtyard where flowers bloomed. A 24-year-old woman who lost a close friend to gun violence two years ago was herself shot by a neighbor. Two boyhood friends, who were shot at the same time, died days apart. Their cases received little attention compared with the slayings of a convenience store owner, a community activist and an aspiring British politician. But they created the same kind of anguish for the people they knew.
Many of the month's victims, including John Jackson, 26, were shot numerous times.
"I thought it was firecrackers," said Jackson's mother, Shirley Boyd, of the rapid fire -- in a courtyard across the street -- that startled her awake. It was just after 2 a.m. July 7. "They don't shoot with little guns."
There have been 14 homicides this month: Three on the 1st. Two on the 2nd. One each on the 4th and 5th. Two on the 7th. And one each day from July 8 through Wednesday.
As killings go, this is far from the District's worst stretch, nothing like the one starting in 1988 when the city averaged more than a homicide a day for eight of nine years.
Yet after a decade of declining numbers, this month's killings have so alarmed city officials that D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey declared a crime emergency.
All but two victims were men, and most were killed close to home in the wee hours of the morning. The homicides were spread across four quadrants: five in Northeast, three in Northwest, two in Southwest and four in Southeast.
D.C. police Lt. Robert Glover of the violent crimes unit noted that the city's killers are using more guns, firing more rounds and leaving behind crime scenes that often stretch for blocks. Police have made arrests in two of the cases and are seeking leads in the rest.
"I wish we could just wave a magic wand and say, 'Stop killing each other,' " Glover said.
Cover Story: Here are the lives behind the numbers, based on interviews with families, friends and policeJuly 1: Ronald Anderson
Just over the hill from where the dome of the U.S. Capitol looms in the distant summer haze, and around the corner from the white crape myrtle at the top of some concrete steps, Ronald Anderson's bullet-riddled body was found at 12:15 a.m. July 1.
He was sprawled in a courtyard of the Carver Terrace apartments, once a notorious place of brick and cement known as "Little Vietnam," in the 2000 block of Maryland Avenue NE.
A handsome man of 25 with a mop of hair and new job at a local supermarket, he was pronounced dead on arrival at Washington Hospital Center a short time later.
Police, who have made no arrests in the case, initially said he lived in the complex, which spreads over the hill about three miles east of the Capitol. But it turned out that he and his mother had moved out a month before.
So he was remembered but dimly this week by residents who said the terrace, although not as bad as in the past, still was haunted by crime and anonymity.
Hurried passersby scrutinized his picture in the police reward flier. "His face looks familiar," said Ann Howard, 43, who was outside the complex Wednesday working on her car. "That was the one that got killed?"
One person who said he knew Anderson was Dale Andrews, 39.
"I DO know him!" Andrews, who lives in a building adjacent to Anderson's former home, said as he perused the flier. He said Anderson was a stand-up person who used to do maintenance around the complex.
"This is a good man," he said. "This is a good man right here. . . . Somebody shot him? Stop playing. That's not funny. I would never suspect this man to get shot for no reason. I've never heard this man cuss. . . . I've never heard him argue."
"There's nothing you can tell me to make me believe he did something to get shot," he said. "This is crazy."
-- Michael E. RuaneJuly 1: Francis Watkins
Francis Watkins, 23, also died July 1 after being shot multiple times in the 4100 block of Gault Place NE. He was about two miles from his home in the 1700 block of Benning Road NE.
Beyond that, little could be learned this week about his life or his death.
-- Robert SamuelsJuly 1: Maurice Darnaby
Patricia Davis vowed she would never go to a funeral for one of her students.
As a D.C. schoolteacher, and over her 38 years as an educator, she declined a lot of them.
But then Maurice "Moe" Darnaby was killed, and a week later she found herself at First Baptist Church of Glenarden in Landover, along with 700 other mourners.
Darnaby, 35, whom she taught in second grade and hadn't seen since, was raised by a single mother in Southeast Washington. He realized his dream of being a D.C. business owner in 2004, when he opened A & L Market in the Bloomingdale neighborhood in Northwest.
He was killed in the store at closing time, shot during an apparent robbery. Detectives have not made an arrest and are investigating the case.
Darnaby worked at the store 12 hours a day, six days a week. He regularly dispensed advice to young people and would let customers buy on credit if they were short on cash.
He was married to Allison Darnaby, his high school sweetheart, and died just shy of their 11th wedding anniversary. The couple had two daughters, Brianna, 8, and Amirah, 6.
"We never thought this would happen to us," his wife said. "We thought we would grow old together."
-- Allison KleinJuly 2: Davion Holt And Michael Lucas
Davion Holt and Michael Lucas grew up together and were gunned down together early in the morning in a dreary section of Southwest Washington.
Holt, 20, died at the scene. Lucas, 16, who never regained consciousness, died six days later.
"It's babies killing babies," lamented Yvetta Hamilton, 46, the aunt who took Holt in as a child when his mother wasn't able to care for him. "They get guns, and they talk about feeling disrespected. Half of them don't know how to spell disrespected."
Holt, nicknamed "Rock," was the second of four children. He lived with his aunt and uncle but kept in touch with his mother, who lives in a shelter.
"All he wanted to do in the world was make his life better," said Greg Holt, a cousin.
Lucas, known as "Mike Mike," was one of seven siblings and was also raised by another woman because his mother felt she was too young to care for him. His father had been shot to death years ago.
Mary Barrett, 54, was guardian to Lucas and his older sister.
"He liked animals and wanted to be a veterinarian," said Barrett, a D.C. government employee who said she had planned to enroll him in a better school in Virginia this fall.
She had also hoped to move out of Southwest, which she felt was dangerous.
"They're killing off each other," she said.
-- Karlyn BarkerJuly 4: Robert W. Allen
Early on Independence Day, as much of the nation prepared to celebrate, someone in a car dropped Robert W. Allen, 27, at Greater Southeast Community Hospital. It was 1:35 a.m., and Allen had numerous gunshot wounds.
Police later determined that he had been shot while standing outside a building in the 300 block of Eastern Avenue NE. They aren't sure why.
Allen, who lived in the 400 block of Mellon Street SE, survived for 39 more minutes.
The case is under investigation.
-- Robert SamuelsJuly 5: Darryl Hill
Darryl Hill's family and friends sat at the dinner table Wednesday preparing for his funeral.
They ate pasta in the house in the 1400 block of Duncan Street NE and recalled his love for his family and his pets.
Hill was shot and killed on the street where he grew up. He was 30. Three friends who were with him also were shot, but they survived.
Ernestine Hill, Darryl's mother, heard the gunshots that Wednesday night. When she stepped out the door to see what was happening, she saw a neighbor running up the staircase: Her boy was hit.
Hill had been rising above his criminal past, relatives said. By 16, he had been convicted of voluntary manslaughter, court records show. He also pleaded guilty to a drug charge in 2003.
"We don't like to talk about those things," said his mother, a receptionist. "He was getting better, and he was maturing."
In December, he proposed to Clareca Brandon, a 31-year-old data analyst whom he had known since middle school. She said he planned to start a job at the Department of Public Works on Monday.
-- Robert SamuelsJuly 7: John Jackson
The last moments of John Jackson's life sounded, at first, like fireworks. His mother had gone to bed, and her son, as usual, had left their home in the 1400 block of 18th Place SE to hang in the courtyard across the street with friends.
But the mini-explosions at 2 a.m. startled Shirley Boyd: "Ain't no little kids shooting no firecrackers this time of the morning," she told her husband.
Her son, actually a nephew whom she'd raised since he was a baby, had been killed in a hail of what appears to be automatic weapons fire.
"There were 20 bullets in his chest," Boyd said, recounting what she had heard from police, neighbors and friends.
"We don't know that for sure," said her daughter, Cynthia Boyd, as the two finished preparing the obituary for his funeral at Grace Memorial Baptist Church in Southeast.
Jackson, 26, had been an usher there as well as a member of the junior choir and missionary circle that visited members who were sick and unable to attend regular services.
The night he was killed, Jackson had come in to chat with his parents about 11 o'clock.
"He kissed me and said he loved me and went back out the door," she said. "That was it."
The next time Boyd saw her son, he was being taken away on a stretcher.
-- Robert E. PierreJuly 7: Jason R. Lyons
As her 4-year-old grandson, Jaronte, ambled up the carpeted stairs this week to tell her she had a phone call, Deborah Levi smiled. The calls have been nonstop and all about the same thing: the shooting death of her son and Jaronte's father, Jason Rasheed Lyons, 24.
Her grandson played as usual, mostly unaware of what had occurred, helping to brighten his grandmother's face. But Levi, fully aware that her son wouldn't be coming home, recalled his good deeds.
The church choir. His stint on the mayor's youth leadership institute. Football, basketball and baseball with the Boys and Girls Club. And the award he'd received in 2002 as one of the high achievers in his GED class at the University of the District of Columbia.
"My brother was not a gangster or a street thug," said Ayana Elliott, 30. "He was a peaceful person."
Lyons's family moved to the District from Takoma Park in the late 1980s, and Elliott was initially afraid of what she'd heard about Southeast. She was put at ease, however, when they pulled up to their home in the Penn Branch neighborhood, a quiet, middle-class community just off Pennsylvania Avenue.
Police said her son was just a few blocks from his home in the 1400 block of 34th Street SE when he was shot numerous times. Investigators found him behind a dumpster.
"The streets are treacherous," Levi said.
-- Robert E. PierreJuly 8: Chris Crowder
He had every reason to bemoan his fate. In 1990, he was paralyzed after being shot while walking through a playground in his Shaw neighborhood.
But Chris Crowder did not allow his disability to dampen his penchant for taking on politicians and embracing causes. In his motorized wheelchair, he rolled into community meetings across the city, voicing his many opinions.
More recently, Crowder, 44, aspired to run for mayor, not because he believed he'd win but to raise issues affecting the poor and disenfranchised that he believed other candidates would avoid.
He was shot to death early Saturday in a small community park around the corner from his apartment. A second victim in the shooting, a man whose identity the police have not revealed, is in critical condition.
All week, neighbors have paused before the shrine that Crowder's friends have put up to memorialize him, a few feet from where he died. "Just the other day, you walked with us, talked with us," two mourners wrote on a card. "Your parting has left an aching void this world could never fill."
-- Paul SchwartzmanJuly 9: Alan Senitt
Alan Senitt's most recent visit to Washington began a few weeks ago, when he started an internship with a political fundraising committee. The activist from Britain knew the city well, particularly Georgetown, where he was killed in a robbery early Sunday.
"He was just an outstanding individual," said Daniel Sacker, a close friend who was with Senitt before the attack. "He was going places."
Sacker, 24, said he, Senitt and a female friend had gone to a movie late Saturday in Georgetown and parted company shortly after 1 a.m.
Police said Senitt, 27, was escorting the woman home when they were confronted by three robbers; at least one had a gun, and one had a knife. One attempted to sexually assault the woman as another stabbed Senitt. Then they fled, riding away in a car driven by a woman. Four suspects later were arrested. Police said they had used one of the victims' ATM cards to get $500, in $20 bills, which they split.
Senitt had no crime concerns, at least not in Georgetown, Sacker said. "We're from London, and people here think of London as being safe. And people there think of Georgetown as being safe."
-- Karlyn BarkerJuly 10: Sandra Mitchell
The porch light was still on at Sandra Mitchell's house this week, along with splatters of what appeared to be blood on the door, covered in a few places by red tape labeled "evidence."
Mitchell, 46, died after police responded to her home in the 4300 block of Dubois Place SE to investigate a stabbing. When they arrived at 8:49 p.m., they found Mitchell, grievously wounded in the neck.
At midafternoon Wednesday, a man who said he was stopping in the neighborhood to see his mother said he had heard about the killing but did not know Mitchell. Another neighbor said that she thought Mitchell had lived there for about six months but that she could not be sure. All that seemed certain was the blood on the door and the burning light on the porch.
-- Robert E. PierreJuly 11: Laquanda Johnson
Laquanda Johnson lost her friend, her "brother" Terence Jones, to gunfire two years ago. This week, Johnson lost her own life.
Gunned down early Tuesday, she was killed in the same area of 22nd Street SE where Jones was killed in April 2004.
A 20-year-old man was arrested hours after Johnson died and has been charged with first-degree murder. But the case is not closed. Detectives are investigating the possibility that Johnson's killing could be tied to the recent trial of Lennell Cooper, 26, who was convicted of killing Johnson's friend.
"That's why they killed my baby," Johnson's mother said yesterday in a telephone interview. "You try to do right and try to stand for something and do what a whole lot of people don't -- and that's step up to the plate and help the law."
Having now fled her Prince George's County home in fear, she spoke on the condition that her name not be used.
She blames the authorities, who she said left her daughter vulnerable once the trial was over. The U.S. attorney's office said the family was relocated with the help of the government.
Johnson, 24, who hung out on the block, did not see Jones's killing, her mother said. But she was named as a possible witness. She was not called to testify.
Johnson was out early Tuesday when she was approached by Alphonce Little, who lives down the street in the 3400 block of 22nd Street SE and who was once friendly with Johnson, her mother said.
Little approached Johnson and another woman and told them, "Don't go anywhere. I'll be right back," according to the charging documents in the case.
Little retrieved a gun he had hidden, returned and opened fire on the women, according to the police account of his statement. The other woman survived. Johnson died at Washington Hospital Center. Little, identified by a witness, was arrested later that morning.
-- Henri E. CauvinJuly 12: Michael Dorsey
Police said Michael Glen Dorsey, 23, lived in the 5700 block of Eagle Street, a narrow, secluded thoroughfare lined with small, well-kept homes off East Capitol Street in Capitol Heights.
At 2:05 a.m. Wednesday, he was found shot multiple times inside a dismal row of two-story brick apartments in the 1900 block of Gallaudet Street NE.
He was five miles -- and, it seemed, a long way -- from home.
-- Michael E. Ruane