By Matt Zapotosky
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 6, 2011; 12:30 AM
Four people were shot, one fatally, Tuesday night in Hillcrest Heights during a drug-related robbery attempt. And on Wednesday night, a man was found slain in an Oxon Hill area apartment building, in Prince George's County's sixth killing in the first five days of the year, authorities said.
Police had not made any arrests in the killings, but they said earlier Wednesday that residents had little to fear. Most of the crimes indicate a "drug nexus," authorities said, and most are thought to be isolated incidents in which the victims were targeted by people they knew.
"These homicides do not appear to be random acts," interim Prince George's Police Chief Mark Magaw said at a news conference Wednesday. "I expect this cycle of violence to be stopped."
In Wednesday night's killing, a resident called 911 shortly after 9 p.m. when he saw a man bleeding in the hallway of a building in the 1300 block of Southview Drive, said Cpl. Clinton Copeland, a police spokesman.
A law enforcement source said the man was shot in the chest and head. The source said neighbors reported hearing gunshots about 7:30 p.m., meaning that the man may have been there bleeding for more than 90 minutes.
"Right now it's just way too early to say if this [slaying] may be related to the others or not," said Maj. Andrew Ellis, the police department's public affairs commander. He added that of the previous five slayings, police believe that two were related.
About 11:45 p.m. Tuesday, police were called to a duplex at 27th Avenue and Norcross Street on a report of a shooting, Ellis said.
Four people were found shot: Michael DeAngelo Layne, 19, of Temple Hills, who was pronounced dead at the scene; a 21-year-old Temple Hills man who was critically injured; and a 21-year-old Temple Hills man and an 18-year-old District man, both with minor injuries, Ellis said.
The surviving victims reported that the incident was an attempted robbery, although nothing was taken, authorities said. Magaw said investigators think that the crime was drug-related because of some of the victims' criminal histories.
Two law enforcement sources also said police recovered two types of shell casings at the scene; one of the sources said the casings were positioned in a way that indicated a shootout. Magaw and Ellis said police were seeking a lone gunman who approached the group. They were awaiting the results of ballistics tests.
Blood was still visible on the steps of the corner duplex Wednesday morning, a gruesome reminder to neighbors of what happened the night before.
The home, in a community of duplexes separated by chain-link fences, is well known to residents as a possible drug hangout. Large groups of young men 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 lives down the street.
A neighbor who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect her privacy said she first heard arguing on the corner, then heard a young man say: "Dude, you gonna do this? You really gonna do this?" The woman said she looked out her window and saw 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.
That shooting was the fifth in five days, and it came at the end of a day on which police had responded to three slayings in roughly eight hours. All of those cases are also thought to have a drug connection.
In the first case, a man leaving the Upscale Ballroom club in the Suitland area was gunned down inside a vehicle, authorities said. The victim, Clifton Antion Turner, 42, of Laurel, had an extensive history of drug convictions and a murder conviction.
In the two related cases, two men were found slain with duct tape over their mouths, sources said. The first was found with his throat cut inside a home in the 7200 block of Crafford Place in Oxon Hill, and police seized a large quantity of marijuana there, Magaw and sources said. The second was found just a few miles away, shot several times and left for dead on the shoulder near Palmer and Tucker roads. Ellis said that man was a friend of the first man's and had apparently been taken from inside the home on Crafford Place and shot at the intersection.
Police had not identified either man, saying they were awaiting confirmation from the medical examiner.
Magaw said that the department has seen spikes in homicides in the past and that he did not think the recent spate was a harbinger of a violent year. Last year, there were 98 homicides in Prince George's - representing a slight drop from the year before and a steep decline from the mid-2000s.
County Executive Rushern L. Baker III said that he, too, did not think it "portends a violent year" and that he has not perceived that residents are as concerned as they were with the homicides in the mid-2000s. He said he has talked with the police chief and State's Attorney Angela Alsobrooks about the need to solve the cases as quickly as possible.
"We've been on him to let's close this," Baker said. "We know it's best to try and close them in the first 48 hours, first 72 hours."
Crime experts said that although a sudden spate of unrelated homicides does not indicate a trend, there are things Magaw can do to stem the violence - especially when it is drug-related.
David M. Kennedy, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said drug-related spasms of violence typically occur because dealers react with force to even minor disrespect.
One way to stem the violence, he said, is to send the message to individual criminal networks "that if there's violence that comes out of your little criminal enterprise, the entire enterprise is going to get a lot of attention for basically anything that's going on."
"When those networks come to understand that the heat that comes with violence is not the price you want to pay, you can calm things down pretty dramatically," he said.
firstname.lastname@example.org Staff researcher Lucy Shackelford and staff writer Clarence Williams contributed to this report.