Police Call Fatal Attack 'Retaliation From One Neighborhood on Another'

Alonzo Robinson, 13.
Alonzo Robinson, 13. (Courtesy of D.C. Police)
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By Paul Duggan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 4, 2008

A 13-year-old boy shot to death in the District's Trinidad section in July was killed by a crew of young men from another part of the city who were roaming Trinidad in a car, firing indiscriminately at people in "an attack on the neighborhood," police said yesterday.

In what detectives said was an unusual incident even in a city where retaliatory street violence is common, five men from the Kenilworth-Parkside area who were feuding with a group in Trinidad allegedly vented their anger by randomly shooting people in the early morning darkness of July 19.

The gunfire wounded four adults and killed young Alonzo Robinson, who lived in Alabama and had come to Washington to visit his cancer-stricken great-grandmother in Trinidad. The boy's mother and an uncle were among the wounded.

"Just a tragic, tragic death on a tragic, tragic night," Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) said at a news conference yesterday at which police announced arrests in the case.

"All indications at this point are this was a retaliation from one neighborhood on another," Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said. She said "there are no indications" that any of the victims was a party to the dispute between the rival Northeast Washington groups. "It was an assault against the Trinidad neighborhood," Lanier said.

Police said one man, whose name they declined to reveal, was arrested several weeks ago and has been cooperating with investigators. As part of a deal with prosecutors, he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and other charges in a closed court proceeding and gave homicide detectives a detailed account of what happened that night, according to a police affidavit made public in D.C. Superior Court yesterday.

Based on the cooperating culprit's information, police said, two other men were arrested Tuesday and yesterday and charged with first-degree murder in the case. A fourth suspect, who has not been charged in the shootings, is in custody in Prince George's County for an unrelated crime, detectives said. They said they are still trying to determine the name of the fifth man who was in the car.

The suspect who has pleaded guilty -- identified in the affidavit only as "CW-1," for "cooperating witness" -- told investigators that he and his four friends had been involved in a dispute with rivals in Trinidad. In retaliation, the affidavit says, "The Kenilworth group formulated a plan to ride through the Trinidad neighborhood and shoot at bystanders that were within the gunmen's view."

The suspects arrested Tuesday and yesterday were identified by police as Antonio McAllister, 18, and Joshua Benton, 19. The affidavit identified the fourth suspect as Benton's twin brother, Christian Benton, who is in custody in Prince George's. Police said CW-1 knew the fifth man in the car only by the nickname "Mike-Mike."

Trinidad, off Florida Avenue NE near Gallaudet University, was plagued by shootings in the spring and summer, leading police to set up checkpoints. Officers stopped motorists to make sure they had valid reasons to be in the area.

The first Trinidad checkpoints, in place for six days beginning June 7, were prompted by a May 31 triple homicide in which the victims, riding in a sport-utility vehicle, were killed in a fusillade of bullets after arguing with their assailant at a Trinidad gas station, according to police. A suspect was arrested two months later.

Checkpoints were set up again, from July 20 to 28, after the shooting rampage that left Alonzo dead.

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