By Allison Klein and Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
First there was a 14-year-old shot in the back in a public housing complex. About 13 hours later, police found a lifeless 15-year-old at a construction site. And seven hours after that, a 16-year-old died after he was shot in the head.
The teenagers were found dead in a 24-hour span in the District on Sunday and Monday, raising alarm across the city. D.C. police said none of the three cases appears to be related, but all three are homicides. That raises to 15 the number of slayings of victims in the city this year who were younger than 18. In all of last year there were 12.
Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said last night that a man, about 50, had been taken into custody in the death of the 15-year-old, Dominick A. Dixon. Ramsey said the man had made a statement about the killing to police.
No arrests have been reported in the other two killings. Police said last night that Dixon's death was a homicide. But they did not say how he was slain, and autopsy results had not been released.
After a search near where Dixon's body was found Monday, police discovered a knife late last night. The youth's mother, Gloria Dixon, said police indicated to her that the small folding knife was "part of the crime."
The teenager's body was found in boxer shorts at a work site near his home. His mother has said she thought he had been strangled. Even after the discovery of the knife last night, she said she had not seen knife wounds on her son's body.
Dixon also said police indicated to her that the man whom they were questioning apparently had been at an abandoned house near where the body was found.
She said she believed she had spoken to the man yesterday. She said the man had expressed sympathy for her son's death and told her, " 'I don't know who could have done this.' "
She added: "Maybe me talking to him made him" give a statement to police
Ramsey said he could not recall a 24-hour period that claimed so many young lives. "You hope it's something that's just an aberration," said Ramsey, in his ninth year as chief.
All but two of this year's juvenile victims were teenagers. The others were a 2-year-old boy and a five-month-old boy. Only one victim was female: Cynthia Gray, 17, killed last month after shielding her godson from bullets on a Southeast Washington street.
The uptick in juvenile homicides echoes the horrific toll of 2004, when 24 youths were slain in the city, causing great concern among residents, community activists, D.C. police and the D.C. Council, which held a hearing that explored the root causes of youth violence.
Two adults were slain in the same 24-hour stretch this week.
The burst of violence comes toward the end of the city's crime emergency, which was declared in July after a spike in homicides and robberies. As part of the emergency, the city pushed back its juvenile curfew to 10 p.m., and police got $8 million for overtime and increased patrols across the city.
Ramsey and other police officials said the steps have had an impact on street violence. But he said he is not ready to ask for the crime emergency to be prolonged and added: "This runs a whole lot deeper than police deployment."
Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) said yesterday that he expects to extend the earlier curfew hours when they expire tomorrow and to introduce legislation to extend other provisions of the crime emergency legislation.
Council member Adrian M. Fenty (D-Ward 4), the Democratic mayoral nominee, said in a statement that he wants more than short-term fixes. He voted last summer against the crime emergency package.
"I will continue to advocate for long-term, proactive solutions," Fenty said. "While I firmly believe that the police department must be both tough on crime and engaged in the community, the recent slayings of young people in this city are proof that superficial measures will not solve the problem."
Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) is planning a candlelight vigil tonight at the site of the first in the spate of homicides, which happened Sunday night in the 3400 block of 13th Place SE.
Police said 14-year-old Andre Pee and 32-year-old Curtis Watkins were fatally shot about 11 p.m. on the dead-end block, which is notorious for drug dealing and gunfire. A 15-year-old was slain on the same block on New Year's Eve.
Pee had just started his first year at Ballou Senior High School. Police said they had picked him up twice this year for curfew violations.
On Monday, while authorities were sorting out what happened to Pee and Watkins, police were called to a construction site near 51st Street and Sheriff Road NE and found Dixon. He had been missing since Saturday. A family friend had found him with purple marks around his neck and wrists.
Dixon began the school year at Ronald H. Brown Middle School but was to start classes this week at Spingarn Senior High.
Police have released few details about his death.
The third juvenile victim was CeQuawn Brown, 16, who was found with a bullet in his head in the 5300 block of Astor Place SE at 7:20 Monday night.
His mother, Nika Brown, said she had moved her son out of that neighborhood about a year earlier because she didn't think it was a safe place for him. But he went back there because that's where his friends were, she said.
Brown said she believes her son, an 11th-grader at Eastern High School, was targeted by someone in the neighborhood with whom he had an ongoing dispute.
"I just think that society is going against one another and taking matters into their own hands," Brown said.
The fifth killing in the 24-hour stretch happened Monday night, when William Downing, 25, of the 300 block of 44th Street SE was discovered in the 1900 block of 17th Street about 11:40 p.m.
Ronald Moten, co-founder of the grass-roots group Peaceoholics, said yesterday that he thinks school being back in session is contributing to the violence.
"A lot of people are clashing with each other, they are seeing each other again," he said. "When school starts up, they have to cross different paths and things are ignited once again."
Staff writers Nikita Stewart, Martin Weil and Allan Lengel contributed to this report.