By Allison Klein and David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, June 1, 2008
An overnight spasm of violence in the District ended near dawn yesterday with seven men dead and three wounded, including a triple slaying after a street argument, a drive-by shooting near an elementary school, a deadly domestic dispute and a crap game that ended in a fusillade of bullets, police said.
All the killings, including the slaying of a man found with his throat cut in his car near his home, occurred within about a two-mile radius in the Trinidad, Marshall Heights and Edgewood Terrace sections of Northeast and Southeast Washington, in neighborhoods ranging from working-class to tumbledown, where families in neatly kept rowhouses live among street-corner loiterers and littered vacant lots.
One of those killed, a 52-year-old man, was shot by D.C. police after he refused to drop a knife during a domestic dispute, authorities said.
"This can only be described as an unbelievably high level of violent crime to take place in a short time," Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) told reporters yesterday, standing in the 1100 block of Holbrook Street NE, where three victims were killed about 4 a.m. in a hail of 35 shots. "We've had some crime sprees, but this has got to be one of the most violent days in recent memory, if not ever."
Eight people were slain in the District in a 24-hour period that began June 24, 1993. The violence continued the following day, eventually leaving a total of 10 dead in 36 hours. Last Sept. 1 and 2, five people were killed in a 24-hour wave of shootings citywide.
Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier, who cut short a personal trip and was returning to Washington yesterday, said by phone that police are working with the FBI and the U.S. attorney's office and that she expects arrests in a few of the weekend cases soon. As of last night, one arrest had been made.
"The cases are still evolving," Lanier said. "We're still interviewing people from overnight."
The weekend slayings, which do not include the police shooting, pushed the city's homicide toll to 72 for this year, the first time that the 2008 body count has surpassed the number of slayings at the same time last year. Five of the killings took place in the 5th Police District, home to about 10 percent of the city's population. Crime in that Northeast police district has been especially heavy lately: 12 killings and 38 robberies in March and April, compared with three slayings and 17 robberies during the same period last year.
"We owe this community a more concentrated effort," Fenty said.
Such efforts have been promised before after similar spates of gun violence. Twice in April, the mayor and police officials ordered beefed-up patrols in some of the areas besieged this weekend.
Five people were killed in four days in Northeast beginning April 14. Less than two weeks later, a citywide rash of violence left four men dead and 11 wounded in a 24-hour span. And in January, four teenagers were wounded in a drive-by shooting as classes were letting out at Ballou Senior High School in Southeast. Last year, 77 percent of the city's 181 killings involved firearms.
"We do not want to kick off the summer like this," Assistant Police Chief Diane Groomes said yesterday. "We need to get the guns out of people's hands."
Late last night, a man was wounded by a gunshot in the back in the 3500 block of Warder Street NW, in what appeared to be the latest violent act in the District, police said.
The first incident in the weekend's spasm of violence occurred at 9 p.m. Friday in the 1600 block of Trinidad Avenue NE, when the 52-year-old man was killed during a confrontation with officers. Police said they had been called to a home to deal with a domestic dispute. The man approached them with a knife and refused to drop it, police said. They opened fire. As of last night, his name had not been released.
Just before 1 a.m., Shannon Shamar Lewis, 27, a furniture mover, left his apartment in the 5300 block of C Street SE in the Marshall Heights area, where he lived with his mother, Michelle Lewis, his grandmother and one of his three young children.
The street dips and rises like a shallow V, with the playing fields of C.W. Harris Elementary School on one side and single-family houses and Urban Outreach Apartments on the other. As Lewis stood waiting, his family, in the apartment, heard gunshots.
"I called 911 and went outside," said the grandmother, who declined to give her name. "I looked that way, then someone said to go the other way. Shamar was lying in the parking lot."
Two other men were wounded, one of them critically, in what police said was a drive-by shooting.
Jason A. Dale, 24, of Oxon Hill was charged last night with second-degree murder.
"I saw all the shootings on TV, and I thought, 'Even if they catch these people, that won't bring my baby back,' " Lewis's grandmother said.
About a half-hour after Lewis was killed, police were called to the 1100 block of Abbey Place NE, not far from Union Station, where a group of men gambling with dice had gotten into a heated argument. Gunfire ended the crap game, with the victim shot several times. Police did not identify the slain man last night.
At 2:30 a.m., police said, a man was shot and wounded in his buttock at Kenilworth Avenue and Quarles Street NE. He was recovering at a hospital yesterday. Then, at 4 a.m., three men were fatally shot after an argument on Holbrook Street NE, about a block from the H Street corridor, a popular strip of restaurants and nightspots. Police said the dispute might have begun in a nightclub. They said 35 shots were fired by at least two gunmen with semiautomatic weapons.
One victim fell dead in an alley, one collapsed in the street and one died in a car. Police identified them as Duane Hough, 27, of the 1400 block of Trinidad Street NE; Anthony Mincey, 35, of the 600 block of Morton Street NW; and Johnny Jeter, 24, of the 1700 block of Holbrook.
"Something personal happened with these guys," said Groomes, adding that officers patrolling the area were close enough to the scene that they heard the shots.
Police discovered the final homicide victim about 6 a.m. in the 2400 block of Fourth Street NE. Lawrence Simmons, 66, was asleep in his black Chrysler when someone beat him on the head and cut his throat, according to police and family members. Simmons, who lived nearby in the 300 block of Channing Street NE, was a friendly man who fixed cars and did carpentry in the neighborhood, relatives said.
"He was a jack-of-all-trades," said his brother, Elmon Simmons, 73.
Simmons said his brother, who had lived in the neighborhood for 20 years, liked to sleep in his car on warm nights. He said he did not know who would have wanted to kill his brother. "He didn't have any enemies," Elmon Simmons said.
On C Street, where the drive-by shooting occurred, Tamy McBride, 39, said she returned home from a cocktail lounge about 2 a.m. and found her neighborhood cordoned off by police. They initially refused to let her pass but then relented, she said. She saw clothes lying in the street and a cluster of detectives standing nearby.
"I am concerned," McBride said. "I just thanked God right there. I said, 'Thank you for saving me.' "
Staff writers Aaron C. Davis and Clarence Williams contributed to this report.