3 Students From Ballou High Wounded in Shooting Nearby

By Allison Klein and Theola Labbé
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Three students from Ballou High were shot and wounded yesterday afternoon just after leaving the Southeast Washington school, police said.

Two girls and a boy, all 16, were in the 3300 block of Fourth Street SE, about a block and a half from the school, when shots were fired from a passing car, police said. One girl was hit in the leg, and the other girl was struck in the knee. The boy was shot in the back. All are hospitalized and expected to recover, police said.

No one was arrested, and police issued a plea for information. Authorities said they think the teenagers were innocent bystanders, perhaps victims of a rivalry between groups.

"We don't know who the intended target is," Assistant Police Chief Diane Groomes said. "We're trying to get people to come forward with information." Groomes said the girls are in 10th grade and the boy in 11th. Ballou has about 1,500 students, and classes had just been dismissed when the shooting happened about 3:30 p.m.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier visited the scene about an hour after the attack. Parents also rushed to the school, crowding behind the police tape as they waited for word about the safety of their children.

The gunfire took place nearly three years after a 17-year-old Ballou student was slain during a brawl outside the school cafeteria. James Richardson, 17, was shot in February 2004 by another student, who is now serving a 16-year prison term for manslaughter.

Other violence has broken out in recent years near the school. Shots were fired in the neighborhood in April 2006, wounding an 18-year-old former student, and in November 2003. No one was injured in that case. The school had been fairly quiet this academic year, officials said. On the second day of classes, a student was arrested after he was caught at Ballou with a gun, but no one was wounded in that incident.

Police estimated that as many as 200 youths were in the area when the shots were fired. The gunfire was heard by a D.C. police sergeant, assigned to Ballou, who was driving his marked car. The sergeant was unable to tell where the shots came from, authorities said. They said witnesses gave conflicting accounts about the shooter's vehicle.

The crowd scattered after the shots. Groomes said witnesses reported hearing nothing spoken before the shots were fired.

A 26-year-old man, who declined to be identified because he is a witness, said he saw a Volvo circle the block and stop near a crowd.

He said a young man, one of the vehicle's four occupants, got out of the car and fired a handgun. "He shot about five times into the crowd and got back into the car. It was crazy," the man said.

Even a police presence was no deterrent, Groomes said, adding: "They're so focused on their beefs, they might not even see the police. They're so angry, they just shoot."

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