Devonte Carlton Charged With Murder in Shooting Death of Deborah Ann Brown

By Theola Labbé-DeBose
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 2, 2009

In the four months that Deborah Ann Brown had been making iced lattes and counting out Munchkins at a Dunkin' Donuts store in Northwest Washington, she became known as the slight, cheerful, generous woman whose personality made others smile.

"If someone was hungry, she would bring in food for them," said colleague Genean Mathews. "She was a beautiful lady."

Brown, 48, got to work at 7 a.m. Saturday and finished about 2 p.m. That night about 9:30, she was walking just a few steps away from the doughnut store, in the 2900 block of 14th Street NW, when police said a teenager with a gun riding a bicycle spotted a perceived enemy across the street. He fired, and Brown was caught in the crossfire between two rival gang members, police said.

Devonte Carlton, 17, of the 1400 block of Girard Street NW was arrested Tuesday and charged with first-degree murder in Brown's killing. D.C. police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said that Carlton was a member of a gang known as the Girard Street crew, or "G-Rod," and that officers and homicide detectives closed the case quickly because "numerous" witnesses came forward. Lanier praised their bravery at a news conference with Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D).

"We're not going to wait for the retaliation to start," Lanier said of the speedy arrest. "The message is clear: Don't come to Washington, D.C., and think you're going to get away with a homicide."

The fatal shooting on a summer evening is the latest episode of violence along the busy commercial corridor in the heart of Columbia Heights. A mall with a Target store and other shops takes up a long city block, and the sidewalks are jammed with pedestrians. But random violence has repeatedly shattered the calm. The Saturday shooting occurred a block away from the Target.

In June, two teens from rival gangs opened fire at the Columbia Heights Metro station, and a 19-year-old man was wounded. Devyn Black, 19, was charged with assault.

Lanier said that detectives working on the gang problem in Columbia Heights try to keep up with the feuds and slights and that detectives follow up on shootings even when no one is killed "to keep it from happening," Lanier said.

Police did not say what Carlton's dispute was about but said the beefs generally are petty.

With the city's homicide rate down 25 percent compared with last year, Fenty said Tuesday that it is rare for bystanders to be killed randomly. In most instances, the victim and the assailant are known to each other.

But in Brown's case, Fenty said, "she was an innocent victim."

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