By Henri E. Cauvin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 8, 2004
Three inmates have been indicted on charges that they arranged to be shot while in the D.C. jail so that they could sue the city for failing to protect them.
The men, who were shot Dec. 20 in the jail's maximum-security wing, claimed they were the victims of an unknown assailant. In fact, one of them was the triggerman in the incident, according to an indictment filed late Tuesday in D.C. Superior Court.
Shawn Gray, 32, smuggled a small-caliber handgun into the jail and used it to shoot himself and two other indicted inmates, Frederick Robinson, 40, and Leonard Johnson, 27, as well as a fourth inmate, Jamal Jefferson, 23, prosecutors said.
Jefferson, who is referred to but not named in the indictment, told Gray that he did not want to be shot, according to the charging document. But Gray fired anyway, the indictment alleges, striking Jefferson in the right knee and apparently setting in motion the unraveling of the plot. Jefferson was not charged in the indictment, and prosecutors said the investigation into his activities is "pending."
Although none of the four men was seriously wounded, law enforcement sources said in January that at least one of them was angry at how the shootings turned out and began cooperating with investigators. In the weeks that followed, D.C. police and Corrections Department officials pieced together what they believe happened.
Gregory Lattimer, an attorney for Johnson, said the allegations are untrue. Lattimer said the shootings were an attempted hit against one of the four men stemming from a shipment of drugs that went astray in the jail. D.C. officials have said that theory is far-fetched.
At first, authorities were unable to explain how a handgun was smuggled inside the jail, where even correctional officers are prohibited from carrying firearms. The shootings, which took place a year after two inmates were stabbed to death, led to renewed criticism of jail management.
Investigators suspected at first that an officer or contractor might have smuggled the gun in. Although they have not ruled out the possibility that the inmates were aided by an employee, they do not believe the gun was brought in the jail's front door, a jail official said.
"To rule out that no one, no employee participated, I think would be premature, because that matter is still under investigation," Corrections Department spokesman Darryl J. Madden said.
Prosecutors now believe that an unidentified co-conspirator threw the gun onto a ledge near the recreation yard wall, where it was retrieved, according to the indictment. Gray stored the gun initially in a mop closet and later under a mattress, the indictment says.
The shootings followed several aborted attempts dating to early December, the indictment says.
In one instance, Gray allegedly called off plans to carry out the shootings in his cell on a Monday, the day that inmates receive their weekly supply of toiletries and other personal items. The indictment says Gray knew the jail would be locked down after the shooting, and "he did not want the inmates to go without their supplies."
In another instance, plans to commit the shootings in a shower were delayed because "certain trusted correctional officers were on duty that day" and the plotters apparently did not want to risk having the officers transferred over a security lapse, the indictment says.
Gray, Johnson and Robinson, who are already charged with or serving time for a variety of crimes, were indicted on charges of conspiracy to defraud, assault with a dangerous weapon, introduction of contraband into a penal institution and other offenses. All three are being held in jails outside the District, as is Jefferson.