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Fatal Gunfight in NW Among Three Days of Killings, Woundings

By Valerie Strauss and Clarence Williams
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, May 17, 2009

It was the typical predawn scene yesterday in Adams Morgan: Revelers poured out of bars and restaurants and walked -- sometimes drunkenly stumbled -- to their cars along 18th Street and neighboring arteries.

But it led to one of three fatal shootings in the city in eight hours late Friday and early yesterday. Gunfire wounded two police officers.

It was about 3 a.m. in Adams Morgan when a fight erupted, and someone in the crowd pulled out a gun, police and witnesses said. Two shots rang out. Suddenly, undercover officers working in the area appeared, one pulling out a badge and ordering the gunman to put down his weapon, police said.

Instead, the young man ran away, and two plainclothes officers began chasing him. The man turned and fired. One officer was hit in the lower back, below his bulletproof vest, and the other in the leg, police said. The officers fired back and fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Griffin near Kalorama Road and Champlain Street in Northwest Washington.

The officers, who were not identified, were from the 3rd District Tactical Unit and had been assigned to stop a rash of robberies, said Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier. The officers were hospitalized, and their wounds did not appear to be life-threatening, Lanier said. Griffin, of the 1400 block of Fairmont Street NW, was pronounced dead at 8:45 a.m.

Less than four hours after the Adams Morgan incident, a 32-year-old man was found fatally shot in the 4200 block of Fourth Street SE. He was identified as Michael G. Colbert of the 1500 block of V Street SE, police said.

In the first of the three fatal overnight shootings, Marcus Robinson, 20, of the 600 block of Morton Street NW was fatally shot about 11 p.m. Friday in the 3000 block of 14th Street, police said.

Another fatal shooting occurred Thursday night, and five people were wounded by gunfire Friday in three or four separate incidents, police said.

The rash of shootings helped prompt Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) to call for more aggressive action against crime and gangs.

"It was the kind of night that reminds why even in the nation's capital there is a real need for more aggressive measures on cutting back crime," Fenty said at a news conference.

Warning of the advent of summer, when weather drives more people onto the street and sparks more violence, Fenty urged the D.C. Council to quickly pass laws to decrease gang violence and gun crimes. They would increase penalties for crimes committed in stolen vehicles and would add a charge for those caught with a gun in a stolen car.

Lanier said one suspect in a recent shooting had been arrested twice in the past five months with a weapon.

According to ANC Commissioner Alexander Padro, the victim in Thursday night's killing was a 21-year-old shot in a fight between gangs.

"You have these crews caught up in their own violence and an entire community that is in the cross hairs," Padro said. "The area has lots of kids and seniors. All of them are terrified at times to set foot out of their houses."

Adams Morgan resident Bill McNary said he was asleep in his apartment with his wife and infant when his wife heard two shots and woke him. He looked out at Kalorama Street between 18th and Champlain streets and saw two officers running at full speed.

Cedric Beck, who lives around the corner, on Champlain, said he heard shots, and when he came outside he saw people running, including an officer with a gun in one hand and a badge in the other. Suddenly, he heard more gunshots as crowds filled the sidewalks and streets, he said.

City Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) said a permanent police post at Kalorama and Champlain is needed, noting three homicides there in the past year.

Staff writer Martin Weil contributed to this report. Anyone with information is asked to call 202-727-9099 or 888-919-CRIME.

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