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Left Unchecked To Kill and Die

By Colbert I. King
Saturday, October 17, 2009

This is a story about Eddie Crist and how the D.C. Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services contributes to violence on our streets. But first a preface.

Once a youth offender is found guilty, or "adjudicated" by the court, and is committed to DYRS, the city assumes responsibility for the case. Disposition is left up to DYRS Director Vincent Schiraldi, who has often stated that he prefers to "serve" committed juveniles "in the communities in which they live."

I have written often about such youths. Several have committed violent acts or have themselves become victims of violence. Whenever I ask DYRS to explain why such young people have been released to the community for "services" rather than receiving rehabilitative treatment in a secure setting, as most judges prefer, DYRS answers that it is prohibited by law from discussing individual cases. The department also dismisses my columns about these youth as uninformed and "anecdotal."

The case of Eddie Crist sheds light on how DYRS operates. It is based on a report, obtained from a government source, which was written by David Muhammad, DYRS's chief of committed services.

Eddie, now 17, was committed to DYRS on June 6, 2008, on charges of unauthorized use of a vehicle, destruction of property, and -- get this --"Assault on a Police Officer."

Pretty serious, yes?

On June 11, five days later, DYRS placed Eddie in a foster home, where he was supposedly linked with a community agency for services.

Reportedly things went well until November, when DYRS learned Eddie wasn't going to school. So the agency placed him on what it calls "Intensive Third Party Monitoring (ITPM)" which means someone has to check up on him frequently.

That may have been too much for Eddie. On Dec. 29, 2008, he ran away from his foster home.

Muhammad said DYRS immediately issued a "custody" or arrest order for him.

Eddie remained at large for three months. There's no evidence he ever left town.

He was picked up on March 21, 2009, and sent to Oak Hill Youth Center, the city's secure detention facility, pending a hearing. Not surprisingly, Eddie's freedom was revoked. But DYRS developed a new case plan and returned him to his foster home with a new community release agreement, including a requirement for bi-weekly drug testing.

On June 23, Eddie was required to complete an outpatient drug treatment program and to participate in, among other things, the mayor's Summer Youth Employment Program. He did not comply with his drug treatment program, according to Muhammad's report.

Muhammad wrote: "His DYRS case manager had an unannounced visit with Eddie on Aug. 28, 2009. They discussed his school attendance and he agreed to meet with the case manager to enroll in the substance abuse program the following week."

"On September 19, 2009," wrote Muhammad, "Eddie was arrested for a homicide that occurred the night before on the same street he lives on."

End of report.

According to a Sept. 21 sworn statement filed with D.C. Superior Court by D.C. Detective Norma Horne, a witness observed Eddie "fire multiple gunshots without provocation in the direction of the decedent [Derrick Marshall, 20] and other subjects" who were sitting in a white Ford Crown Victoria. The witness reported having known Eddie for more than 10 years and claims to have seen him daily. According to the statement, the witness confirmed Eddie's identity upon viewing one color photograph. Marshall, the statement said, died from a single gunshot wound.

I note that Eddie is presumed innocent. But here's the question DYRS won't address: Should Eddie Crist -- who was found guilty in June 2008 of assaulting a police officer, who violated terms of his release, who ran away from a community placement, who remained at large for three months and who again violated terms of his release -- have been back on the streets? The same kind of question can be asked about 19-year-old Algan Howard, who was shot on Stanton Road SE last month and taken to a hospital, where he died. Howard, according to DYRS sources, was under DYRS supervision when he was killed.

So too, the sources report, were two other shooting victims who went down in a spray of gunfire last Monday: 18-year-old Chicquelo Abeny of Southwest Washington, who was killed, and another young man, critically wounded, who cannot be identified because police consider him a witness.

A DYRS spokesman said the agency could not comment on cases involving particular youths.

Authorities also are barred from disclosing the juvenile records of the teenagers involved in Tuesday afternoon's shootout in Northeast between rival gangs. That clash left a 15-year-old middle school student and an 18-year-old young man dead, and three other teenagers wounded. Trust me, DYRS-supervised youth were on that scene, too.

Entire communities, good kids and hardworking families, pay when young criminals are not held accountable, as they aren't in the nation's capital.

The next time bullets fly, bodies fall, and children flee for their lives, think of Eddie Crist and DYRS.

kingc@washpost.com

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