5 slayings in 4 days jolt Pr. George's

A television news videographer captures the scene of a multiple shooting on Norcross Street.
A television news videographer captures the scene of a multiple shooting on Norcross Street. (Gerald Martineau for The Washington Post)
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 5, 2011; 10:26 AM

Five people have been slain in Prince George's County since New Year's Day, four of them Tuesday, as 2011 opened with an unusual spate of violence.

In the latest shooting, which occurred just before midnight Tuesday, one person was killed and three people were wounded in the Hillcrest Heights/Marlow Heights area, police said. That incident followed three other slayings earlier in the day, including two in which duct tape was placed over the victims' mouths.

Blood was still visible on the steps of the corner duplex at 27th Avenue and Norcross Street in Temple Hills Wednesday morning, a gruesome reminder to neighbors of the sudden outburst of violence there last night.

The home in a community of duplexes separated by chain link fences was well-known to residents as a possible drug hang out. Large groups of young men would frequently congregate on the front steps talking loudly and smoking marijuana into the night, residents said.

"Every neighborhood has their problem house, I believe, and this was just ours," said Virginia Foster, who was greeted by a horde of reporters as she went to collect her newspaper Wednesday morning. "You know, you have a lot of unemployment, and when you're unemployed, you're idle. An idle mind is the devil's workshop."

Lynn Dunigan, another neighbor, said he was awakened by what sounded like 7 or 8 gunshots Tuesday night and emerged from his house to find police and paramedics swarming the area. He said he was not surprised by the incident or by the recent spasm of violence in the county he calls home.

"I think it's just these days and time," he said.

A neighbor who asked to remain anonymous to protect her privacy said she first heard arguing on the corner, then heard a young man say, "Dude, you 'gon do this? You really 'gon do this?" The woman said that as she went to look out her window, she saw the muzzle flashes from a man pointing a handgun at what looked like a group of three people. That man, she said, took off running down 27th Avenue, pulling a hood up over his dreadlocks. He left one victim lying on the steps of the corner home, and another pounding on the door, holding his shoulder, she said.

"The gunshots sounded like it was in my room," the woman said. "The surviving person should be able to identify who did it, because we talking close range."

The five killings in so brief a period appeared to depart from a trend in the past two years in which the homicide rate was less than five in two weeks. Overall crime in the county also decreased sharply in those two years.

"This is a tough way to start 2011," said Maj. Andrew Ellis, the public affairs commander for the county police department. Ellis spoke before the fifth slaying late Tuesday.

Acting Police Chief Mark Magaw said that the "whole focus of this police department" is on solving the homicides and that he was working to strengthen relationships with federal agencies and home in on violent criminals.

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