1 killed, 1 injured in U St. corridor

D.C. police officers cover a body in a wrecked Dodge Caliber. It was unclear whether the man was killed in a car crash or by gunfire.
D.C. police officers cover a body in a wrecked Dodge Caliber. It was unclear whether the man was killed in a car crash or by gunfire. (Katherine Frey)

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y Paul Duggan and Mary Pat Flaherty
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, September 29, 2010

In the U Street corridor of Northwest Washington, at a corner normally bustling with lunchtime crowds on warm afternoons, a squad of police detectives stood around a wrecked Dodge Caliber that had come to rest on its roof. A dead man, half out of the car, was covered with a white sheet.

What had killed him - the crash or the bullets - wasn't clear.

Police identified the victim Tuesday night as Jamal Coates. His age was not given. A friend said he was in his 20s and lived in the Adams-Morgan/Columbia Heights area.

Police took a 21-year-old man into custody late Tuesday night in connection with the incident, according to two police sources. It was not clear whether anyone had been charged.

"We have information that, yes, it may be gang-related," Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said Tuesday, standing not far from where the mayhem unfolded minutes earlier in the blocks of U Street from 13th to 11th streets: one dead, one wounded.

It began at a funeral, she said.

Walker Baptist Church, near 13th and U streets, was overflowing with 500 to 600 mourners at the service for Ashley McRae, 21, who was shot to death Sept. 18, allegedly by her boyfriend after an argument. Among the attendees were members of three or four Northwest gangs, a community activist later said.

As Coates and another young man who had been at the funeral were getting into a Dodge Caliber near the church, they were approached by a gunman, or maybe more than one, possibly in an old, light-colored car, according to police. Then shots were fired.

Lanier said about a half-dozen uniformed police officers were posted outside the church, which is standard procedure at funerals for homicide victims in the District.

Instead of joining the procession to the cemetery, the two men in the Dodge sped off, headed east on U Street, their escape coming to a quick and violent end at 11th and U, police said.

After clipping a northbound Mercedes-Benz that was passing through the intersection, police said, the Dodge went out of control, flipped over and glanced off a parked Verizon van before sliding to a stop. One of the men was taken to a hospital with a gunshot wound described as not life-threatening. His companion was not as fortunate.

Two law enforcement sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, said detectives found shell casings in the wrecked Dodge, leading police to think that the men exchanged gunfire with the assailants near the church.


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