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D.C. police trace shootings that killed 4 through chain of events starting with a man's missing bracelet

Residents and the families of four people killed in a shooting March 30 in Southeast Washington called for tougher crime laws at an emotional D.C. Council hearing Monday. Murder charges have been filed in one of the District's deadliest shootings in years, police said.

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By Clarence Williams, Keith L. Alexander and Paul Duggan
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, April 1, 2010

As authorities tell it, the wheelman wasn't a man but a boy, 14, driving a silver Chrysler minivan with three passengers, at least two of them adults. When they were done shooting, police said, four victims lay dead or dying, and five others were bleeding from wounds.

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The assailants carried at least three weapons, investigators said: an AK-47-style assault rifle, which police later recovered, and two handguns, a 9mm and a .45-caliber, identified from shell casings found at the scene of the carnage.

It was one of the deadliest outbreaks of violence in the District in years: a drive-by shooting into a crowd of people, many of them teenagers, whose bodies fell in piles Tuesday night. And panic and chaos ensued. The suspects sped away, chased by police cars and a helicopter in a frantic pursuit that left four officers slightly injured in a collision of cruisers and ended with the youth and two adults in handcuffs.

The reason for the mayhem? It might have begun with something this trivial: a missing bracelet.

"My child barely weighed 100 pounds . . . shot in the temple with an AK-47 . . . bullets all in her body. It's senseless," said Nardyne Jefferies, the mother of 16-year-old Brishell Jones, who was killed.

Based on evidence and interviews thus far, authorities think the attack was part of a cycle of retaliation spawned a week ago by suspicions of petty theft. "It looks to be just that silly," said one law enforcement official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing.

Investigators said they think the mass shooting in the 4000 block of South Capitol Street in the Washington Highlands neighborhood is linked to the fatal shooting of Jordan Howe, 20, in Southeast Washington a week earlier. That incident was prompted by a man's anger over his missing gold-colored bracelet, according to investigators and court documents. At least some of the victims Tuesday had just attended Howe's funeral, law enforcement officials said.

Police theorize that Howe's killing, early March 22, led to more gunfire a day later, ultimately resulting in Tuesday night's shootings. Besides Jones, DaVaughn Boyd, 18, and William Jones III, 19, have been identified as victims. Late Wednesday night, police identified the fourth victim as Tavon Nelson, 17.

At a news conference Wednesday night, D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier confirmed the three-part chain of violence.

"There is no more egregious retaliation than to shoot nine people and have four people dead," she said at the scene of Tuesday's shootings. "That's unacceptable."

Devole Thompson, 40, of District Heights confirmed in an interview that Boyd, his son, was among those killed. He said Boyd had just returned to his grandmother's house in the District after Howe's funeral and had told his grandmother that he was going to a store on South Capitol Street with a friend. He never returned, Thompson said.

The adults arrested, Nathaniel D. Simms, 26, and Orlando Carter, 20, both charged with first-degree murder, made their initial appearances Wednesday in D.C. Superior Court and were ordered jailed to await further hearings April 16.


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