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Victim testifies as 1993 shotgun stalker seeks 12-hour release

James E. Swann Jr. is arrested in 1993. He was declared not guilty by reason of insanity after shootings that killed four people.
James E. Swann Jr. is arrested in 1993. He was declared not guilty by reason of insanity after shootings that killed four people.

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 16, 2011; 11:25 PM

Hope Hallock is blind in her right eye, the result of a bullet that hit her in the head on St. Patrick's Day in 1993. On Wednesday, Hallock stood in a D.C. Superior courtroom just a few feet from the shotgun stalker, who injured her and others and killed four people during an eight-week shooting spree that terrified the District.

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Hallock, 41, was called by prosecutors to speak at a hearing for James E. Swann Jr., who is seeking a one-time, 12-hour release from St. Elizabeths Hospital, the psychiatric facility where he has been since the shootings. In 1994, Swann was declared not guilty by reason of insanity after psychiatrists said he was driven by disembodied voices that only he could hear.

Standing at a podium, Hallock told Judge Fred B. Ugast that she had "concerns" about the possibility of Swann's release. It was the first time Hallock had been able to address Swann since the shootings.

"I am a survivor of the shootings that happened. This was very traumatic for myself and my family," she said. Hallock became a social worker after the shooting hoping to better understand and help people with mental illnesses, she said. Because of the shooting, Hallock said she and Swann "will forever be linked in some way."

As Hallock spoke, Swann sat next to his lawyers, wiping away tears with his shackled hands. His lawyers repeatedly objected to Hallock's testimony. Swann also initially opposed Hallock's appearance, telling Ugast, "I don't think it's the right thing to do, sir."

After her testimony, Hallock was more direct about her thoughts, saying she hoped Swann would not be released and that she was surprised at his tears. "I don't believe they were real, do you?" she asked.

For nearly eight weeks beginning in February 1993, Swann, now 46, struck fear into the Columbia Heights and Mount Pleasant neighborhoods, shooting nine people - four fatally - through the driver's-side window of his car.

At the time of his arrest, in a videotaped interview with a psychiatrist, Swann said he heard voices that commanded him to shoot people in those neighborhoods to avenge the murder of Malcolm X.

Swann and his attorneys asked that he be able to spend his upcoming birthday with his father. Federal prosecutors and St. Elizabeths officials object to the request.

Wednesday was the second day of the hearing. Forensic psychologist Raymond Patterson shared new information about the shootings, saying that Swann targeted specific areas of the District that were culturally diverse and represented "civil rights."

Swann sought out victims who were walking alone. After each of the shootings, Patterson said, Swann would drive to Harlem, where he told authorities he was visited by spirits that told him to avenge Malcolm X. On his drive to New York, Swann would stop at the nearest KFC restaurant for a bite to eat, then find a prostitute and pay for sex.

Patterson said it was too soon to grant a temporary release for Swann. Although he no longer shows signs of paranoid schizophrenia, he would still pose a "significant risk of danger" to himself and others if he were released to his father, Patterson said.

The hearing is scheduled to resume Tuesday.


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