Slain D.C. 15-Year-Old Was Bystander, Police Say

The police tape is still up at a Northeast Washington public housing complex the morning after five people were shot, two fatally in the parking lot. Hours after the shooting, the Peaceoholics convened a previously scheduled town hall meeting seeking solutions to the recent rash of youth violence plaguing the city.
By Theola Labbé-DeBose and Clarence Williams
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, October 15, 2009

The D.C. middle school student shot and killed Tuesday afternoon at a Northeast Washington housing complex was an innocent bystander caught in the crossfire of two rival groups fighting over stolen guns, police and law enforcement sources said Wednesday.

Police and other sources say Davonta Artis, 15, was killed when teenagers from 37th Place SE and Clay Terrace, a neighborhood about two miles away, got into a dispute in the 5300 block of Clay Terrace NE, and there was an exchange of gunfire. Daquan Tibbs, 18, who lived in the 200 block of 37th Place SE, was also killed. Three other teenage boys were wounded.

Police believe the shooting might have resulted from the theft of money and guns from members of the 37th Place crew. Its members went to Clay Terrace on Tuesday looking to get them back, according to a law enforcement source with direct knowledge of the investigation who spoke on condition of anonymity because the probe is ongoing. The source stressed that detectives are exploring other possible motives for the tension between the groups but are focusing on the guns.

Police think members of the 37th Place group arrived at Clay Terrace in a black sport-utility vehicle, got out and exchanged words with teens from Clay Terrace. "They didn't want the money back; they wanted the guns back," the source said. "That's when the bullets started flying."

Investigators recovered three handguns from the scene Tuesday night, sources said. Police also recovered shell casings from four calibers of guns.

Two law enforcement sources said that one of the wounded is the son of a D.C. police officer assigned to the special operations division and that a gun was found near him. That teenager remains hospitalized in critical condition, police said, and the sources said investigators don't know what involvement, if any, that youth had in the shooting.

Chief Cathy L. Lanier said that police have gotten some cooperation from the community but that they need more witnesses to step forward.

"Information is coming in, and I commend those who have come forward," Lanier said in an interview, "but we need it to keep coming in."

Police arrested one person Tuesday afternoon who was seen running near the scene. He was found with a gun and charged with possession of a pistol without a license, two law enforcement sources said. Investigators served a search warrant at that person's home Wednesday and recovered what appeared to be a replica of an assault weapon, a police source said. That arrest has not been linked to Tuesday's shooting.

The shooting happened shortly after 4 p.m., and police said Wednesday that it appears Davonta was a bystander, not a target.

Davonta's cousin, John Reddick, said Davonta was a well-behaved teen who minded his parents and met his 8:30 p.m. curfew. He had an older and a younger brother, Reddick said, and had grown up in Clay Terrace, a public housing project where police have battled violence and drug activity.

Davonta liked hanging out with his brothers and was especially fond of playing with his nephew, born in January, Reddick said. Davonta threw a football on the patch of worn grass outside his apartment building, shot hoops on the nearby court and visited friends' houses to play video games.

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