Public Defender Intern Recalled As Positive Example for Youths

By Jonathan Mummolo and Omar Fekeiki
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, July 1, 2007

Michael Richardson, 30, an intern with the D.C. Public Defender Service who was fatally shot Friday at the Steak & Egg Breakfast restaurant on Ninth Street NW, knew the streets from his job and from personal experience.

Friends and co-workers said the former Howard University football player -- whose record shows arrests and acquittals in the 1990s for drug, weapons and assault charges -- was friendly, hardworking and positive. One friend recalled the moment of clarity that came a few years back, when Richardson was shot in the face.

"He decided [then] to really make it a point to talk to youth about staying away from violence in the streets," said Rich Lecky of Northeast Washington, a friend and former classmate of Richardson's.

Heather Pinckney, a trial attorney with the public defender's office, said Richardson told her that few of the people he grew up with in Far Rockaway, N.Y., went to college or left the old neighborhood.

She said she liked that he did not forget such people, particularly those who became entangled in the criminal justice system.

He had had his own brushes with the law, according to public records, but his friend said the earlier shooting changed his outlook.

Then, early Friday morning, Richardson was shot in the chest in the restaurant. He went outside and collapsed on the sidewalk. He was taken to Howard University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, police said.

The gunman fled, no arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing, police said.

The restaurant, which is open seven days a week, was closed yesterday.

Store owners in the neighborhood said the late-night crowd can get rowdy.

"There are drug dealers around the restaurant every night. I see them. . . . If they are there, they create problems," said Belinke Fofana, 45, who runs a flea market across the street. The restaurant usually opens at midnight and closes about 3 p.m., neighbors said.

Joseph Vamboi, the restaurant's owner, could not be reached for comment. But Osman Barrie, who co-owns Osman and Joe's Steak & Egg Kitchen on Wisconsin Avenue NW with Vamboi, said the shooting was a freak occurrence. "It could have happened anywhere," Barrie said. "This guy was just in the wrong place at the wrong time."

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