Intern for Council Member Charged in NW Shooting

By Theola Labbé-DeBose
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 20, 2009

When a gunman opened fire outside the Columbia Heights Metro station Thursday afternoon, D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) angrily denounced the incident, which was believed to be gang-related, and called for stronger penalties against gang members.

Graham represents the Northwest neighborhood where the shooting took place. But it struck closer to home than Graham realized at the time: The alleged gunman was an intern in Graham's office.

The intern turned himself in yesterday at the 3rd District station, with the council member at his side.

"It's very troubling, but I'm glad that he cooperated," Graham said.

Graham identified the intern as Devyn Black, 19, of Northwest Washington and said he had worked in his office for four days as part of the mayor's summer jobs program. Police said he faces a charge of assault with a dangerous weapon in connection with the Columbia a Heights incident, in which a 19-year-old man from Northwest was shot and wounded.

Before the identity of the suspect was known, the incident spurred Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and police leaders to renew their call for the council to pass legislation that would enact civil penalties against gang members creating nuisances.

Graham had just returned to his office from that news conference yesterday afternoon when he got a call from Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier, who told him that police had an arrest warrant for Black, his summer intern, Graham said.

Graham said he heard rumors in his office that the intern might have been linked to the incident. He said he asked Black whether he was involved but said the intern denied it.

On Thursday, more than 2,500 youths enrolled in the summer program were at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center for an orientation. Graham said Black was not in the office that day because he attended the training.

Authorities said the violence started after the two men, who knew each other previously, got on the Metro at the Convention Center. The pair exited at Columbia Heights, and gunfire erupted about 3 p.m. at 14th and Irving streets NW. Authorities said the shooting was linked to a dispute between two rival gangs in Northwest Washington.

Graham said that when Lanier told him about the warrant, he told her, "Let me see if I can call him and get him to turn himself in."

Graham reached Black on his cellphone and told him it would be better if he cooperated with authorities. "I told him, 'I'll come get you, and I'll take you' " to the police station.

Graham said that in the short time he knew him, Black was engaged in the pressing issues of the day, including a report the council released on gang violence. "He sat through the whole discussion. He seemed to be very interested," Graham said.

Officials hope the gang legislation can be revived and passed at the council's June 30 meeting so it can take effect this summer. The bill would permit police to obtain civil court orders, violation of which would lead to a criminal charge of contempt of court. The council voted down the proposal 9 to 4 this week after some members expressed concerns about racial profiling.

Staff writer Clarence Williams contributed to this report.

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