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Family, friends mourn boy slain in D.C. apartment

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Family, friends, neighbors and city officials gather Monday night in honor of Oscar Fuentes, the 9-year-old boy killed by a bullet shot through the door of his apartment on the 1400 block of Columbia Road NW.

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By Matt Zapotosky
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Oscar Fuentes was every bit a kid's kid.

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When he lived with an older cousin in the District, he was known to run outside at the sound of a bouncing basketball, the cousin said. Friendly? You bet. Annoying? At times.

About what you would expect from a 9-year-old.

On Saturday, Oscar was gunned down in his family's Columbia Heights apartment, struck by a bullet that pierced the dwelling's door, authorities said.

On Monday, dozens of his neighbors, friends and family members gathered on the steps of his apartment building, lighting candles, singing songs and pondering how a boy so young could meet such a violent end.

"We are in a lot of pain in the city right now," said Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), addressing family members at the vigil. "Everyone has a loved one. There is no good way to lose someone, especially so young."

Police have offered few details on what happened before a bullet pierced the door of Oscar's apartment in the 1400 block of Columbia Road.

Initially, law enforcement sources not authorized to speak publicly about the case suggested that family members had run into their second-floor apartment to avoid a robbery and that one of the robbers fired a shot through the door.

But D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said Sunday that investigators were only exploring that possibility. She said that the killing did not appear to be gang-related and that Oscar was not the target. She also said she was confident the case would be closed with an arrest.

Oscar's relatives sobbed during the vigil, and his mom's cousin, Rufino Fuentes, said it was too difficult for immediate family members to return to the scene. Oscar's grandmother Antonia Fuentes appeared at the vigil but did not speak. At one point, a cousin of Oscar's collapsed and had to be taken away on a stretcher. Rufino Fuentes said she was overcome with grief.

Speaking on behalf of the family, Rufino Fuentes thanked city officials for their attentiveness and urged them to be vigilant in addressing the crime problems in Columbia Heights and in Oscar's building.

D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) told those at the vigil that housing inspectors had recently found more than 100 violations at the building. In the wake of the killing, neighbors said that the locks on the building's exterior door had been broken.


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