D.C. Teen Is Killed at U Street Area Nightclub

Taleshia Ford was killed at this club near U Street. Her death is the fourth killing associated with dance clubs in that area in less than three years.
Taleshia Ford was killed at this club near U Street. Her death is the fourth killing associated with dance clubs in that area in less than three years. (Rich Lipski - Twp)
By Keith L. Alexander and Jacqueline L. Salmon
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, January 21, 2007

A 17-year-old girl was fatally shot early yesterday at a nightclub crowded with teenagers near the U Street corridor, a rapidly transforming area of the District that has drawn a sometimes volatile mix of young people who flock to the bars and restaurants at night.

The shooting of Taleshia Ford set off a rapid response from city officials. Acting Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier ordered that the club be closed temporarily. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) called for more aggressive policing of underage clubs. And D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) said he would introduce legislation barring minors from nightclubs where alcohol is served.

Ford, a senior at Booker T. Washington Public Charter School, had begged her reluctant mother to let her go with older family members to Smarta/Broadway, also known as Club 1919, at 1919 Ninth St. NW. Although it caters to teenagers, Smarta/Broadway has a license to serve alcohol to adults. On Friday night, a go-go band was playing the rhythmic, percussive dance music that defines the D.C.-based genre.

Ford, a bystander, was shot when a gun brought to the club by another patron went off during a scuffle with a bouncer.

Her parents, Michelle and Oscar Wilson, criticized the city for allowing alcohol to be served in clubs catering to teens and the club, which they said did not provide adequate security. The club's owner could not be reached.

Michelle Wilson said she had forbidden her daughter, the middle of her five children, from attending the club in the past. Wilson agreed this weekend because Taleshia was going with relatives.

"If I had just said no last night," she said, tearfully second-guessing her decision. Her daughter would have been angry, Wilson said. "But she would have been here.

"This was my baby," she said. "My baby. She was so full of life, so much talent, just wasted."

Police said the incident unfolded after a woman was kicked out of the club by security guards who accused her of smoking marijuana. The woman left but returned with a male friend who was carrying the gun. After entering the club, the couple got into an altercation with a bouncer, police said, and the handgun the man was carrying accidentally fired.

Ford, who was standing nearby, was struck in the side by a bullet that exited her chest, family members said.

She and her friends had been dancing to the Third Dimension Band just minutes before, but the group had stopped playing after the commotion began, said Ashley Cunningham, 18, Ford's sister, who was with her at the club.

"We all scattered, and I didn't know where she was until I saw her on the floor bleeding," Cunningham said.

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