Columbia Heights Shootings Cause Alarm

By Elissa Silverman and Clarence Williams
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, June 4, 2007

A 13-year-old youth was fatally shot and a man was wounded Saturday night in Columbia Heights, less than a day after a teenage girl was shot and wounded on the same block, authorities said last night.

Terry Cutchin was standing on the street when shots were fired from a passing vehicle, hitting him and a 23-year-old man nearby, police said. Police said they were searching for a dark sport-utility vehicle in connection with the attack, which took place about 10 p.m. in the 1400 block of Girard Street NW.

The youth, who lived in the 1300 block of Columbia Road NW, was pronounced dead a short time later. Police said the injured man was driven in a car to Washington Hospital Center, where he was treated for a gunshot wound to the right arm. His name was not released because he is a witness.

The violence, coming on the heels of another shooting, provoked alarm among authorities and residents.

"Here you have two shootings two nights in a row," said D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), noting that a 16-year-old girl was shot in the ankle on the same block shortly after midnight Saturday morning.

The two shootings were part of a particularly violent weekend in the city. Two people were shot and killed in separate incidents in Northeast Washington on Saturday, according to police. Early yesterday, police fatally shot a man in Northeast Washington after he allegedly pointed a gun at an officer.

The outbreak of violence comes only a few days before D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier plans to unveil a summer crime initiative that will deploy officers to known hot spots for violence.

"Summer caught us a week early," Lanier said of the weekend violence.

She said the redeployment strategy, which will be announced this week, will increase police presence on specific streets and in neighborhoods with a history of shootings and frequent occurrences of crime.

Columbia Heights, a rapidly gentrifying part of the District, has been the scene of several bursts of gun violence that have wounded and killed teenagers in recent months.

Police have a surveillance camera mounted in the 1400 block of Girard Street, and they said they would review images looking for leads.

Terry Cutchin was a straight-A student at Lincoln Middle School and lived with his grandmother, Geraldine Cutchin, said Nancy Jenkins, his aunt.

He had returned home from a visit with his mother Saturday afternoon and was excited to download music on an iPod he had just gotten, Jenkins said.

He left his grandmother's apartment about 8:30 p.m. and met several friends who planned to hang out at one of their homes, she said.

Later that night, Terry's grandmother heard gunfire and left her apartment to search for her grandson. All of the youths except Terry were accounted for .

Jenkins questioned why there wasn't a more visible police presence on the block. "Someone just got shot there the day before," she said.

The police cruiser assigned to patrol the block had been called to Southeast, where a car had driven into a crowd of people attending the annual Unifest street festival Saturday evening, Graham said.

Notwithstanding the need for police at the festival, where at least 40 people were injured, Graham said he was troubled that the patrol car was sent across town so shortly after a shooting had occurred on the block.

"The fact that this officer moved from Girard Street Northwest to W Street Southeast is a comment on that there is a thin blue line," Graham said. "There shouldn't have been that kind of desperate need to pull that car away."

Graham said he returned to the block yesterday afternoon and did not see any police.

A police cruiser was parked on the block later in the evening.

In an interview, Lanier said police have been well positioned across the city. "I feel the officers are in the right places at the right times," because they respond quickly when violence occurs, she said.

Neighbors said violence has gotten worse in Columbia Heights over the past year. In late April, 18-year-old Edwin Ventura of the 1400 block of Harvard Street NW was fatally shot while with friends on Sherman Avenue NW, a few blocks from his home.

"I've been living around here since I was in diapers," said Chinata Nesbit, 21, who lived in an apartment across the hall from Terry. "It's never been this bad."

Staff writers Clarence Williams and Jacqueline L. Salmon contributed to this report.

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