Picture emerges of SE shootings from gunman-turned-witness

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.
By Paul Duggan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 24, 2010

An admitted participant in a drive-by shooting in the District on March 30 has given homicide detectives a detailed account of the mayhem, including the names of his alleged accomplices, their specific roles in the attack, the motive for the gunfire and how they obtained the weapons used to kill four people and wound several others, according to court documents and law enforcement sources.

The sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of pending court cases, identified the gunman-turned-witness as Nathaniel Simms, 26, who was arrested shortly after the mass killing. Although police affidavits made public Friday in D.C. Superior Court do not identify Simms by name, it is clear from the documents that Simms helped investigators sort out what happened on the night of the attack and supplied information that led to additional arrests.

Four men, including Simms, have been charged with multiple counts of murder and ordered jailed without bond. A fifth adult, named in an arrest warrant, is being sought by detectives. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said that authorities do not think anyone else was involved in the shootings, the deadliest outbreak of violence in the city in years.

A 14-year-old boy who was charged in the attack, which occurred in the Washington Highlands neighborhood of Southeast Washington, was publicly exonerated Thursday by authorities, who acknowledged that he had been arrested based on faulty information.

Simms and another man, Orlando Carter, 20, were arrested the night of the shootings after a police chase from Southeast Washington into Prince George's County and back to the District. Based largely on information provided by Simms, the sources said, two other men were arrested Thursday.

The two, Lamar Williams and Robert Bost, both 22, made their initial appearances Friday before a Superior Court magistrate and were ordered held without bond pending further court proceedings. Both pleaded not guilty. Simms has told police that Bost took part in the attack and that Williams, who was not present during the shootings, supplied the guns, according to the sources and affidavits.

The affidavits say that Carter, who also has pleaded not guilty, was the driver of the rented, silver-colored minivan used in the attack on a group of people standing outside a dilapidated residence in the 4000 block of South Capitol Street SE.

Bost, armed with a .45-caliber pistol, was in the front passenger seat, according to the affidavits. The suspect who is being sought, Jeffrey Best, 21, was in the back seat with a 9mm handgun, the affidavits say. Simms, also in the back seat, was armed with an AK-47-style assault rifle, according to the sources and affidavits. As Carter drove and the others opened fire, the four wore "black ninja-style masks to conceal their identities," one of the affidavits states.

Police have said the attack was part of a cycle of retaliation touched off a week earlier by a shooting in Southeast Washington in which Jordan Howe, 20, was killed. Carter has since been charged in that slaying.

A few days after Howe was killed, Carter was shot and wounded by an unidentified assailant. According to the affidavits, Carter thought that his attacker had been someone seeking street justice for Howe's death. Carter vowed to retaliate against Howe's friends, the affidavits say, adding that Carter then asked around about the time and place of Howe's funeral.

"I'm going to [expletive] that funeral up; I'm going to shoot up the funeral," Simms quoted Carter as saying, according to the sources and affidavits. And Carter, Simms, Bost and Bests allegedly carried out the threat. Many of those in the crowd of people targeted in the drive-by attack had attended Howe's funeral and burial just hours earlier.

As for the 14-year-old who was charged and later exonerated, The Washington Post did not identify him after his arrest because the newspaper's policy, like that of most media organizations, is to withhold the names of juveniles charged with crimes.

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