D.C. Slayings Bring '08 Toll to 72

D.C. Slayings Bring '08 Toll to 72

Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, June 1, 2008; Page A01

An overnight spasm of violence in the District ended near dawn yesterday with seven men dead and three wounded, including a triple slaying after a street argument, a drive-by shooting near an elementary school, a deadly domestic dispute and a crap game that ended in a fusillade of bullets, police said.

All the killings, including the slaying of a man found with his throat cut in his car near his home, occurred within about a two-mile radius in the Trinidad, Marshall Heights and Edgewood Terrace sections of Northeast and Southeast Washington, in neighborhoods ranging from working-class to tumbledown, where families in neatly kept rowhouses live among street-corner loiterers and littered vacant lots.

One of those killed, a 52-year-old man, was shot by D.C. police after he refused to drop a knife during a domestic dispute, authorities said.

"This can only be described as an unbelievably high level of violent crime to take place in a short time," Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) told reporters yesterday, standing in the 1100 block of Holbrook Street NE, where three victims were killed about 4 a.m. in a hail of 35 shots. "We've had some crime sprees, but this has got to be one of the most violent days in recent memory, if not ever."

Eight people were slain in the District in a 24-hour period that began June 24, 1993. The violence continued the following day, eventually leaving a total of 10 dead in 36 hours. Last Sept. 1 and 2, five people were killed in a 24-hour wave of shootings citywide.

Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier, who cut short a personal trip and was returning to Washington yesterday, said by phone that police are working with the FBI and the U.S. attorney's office and that she expects arrests in a few of the weekend cases soon. As of last night, one arrest had been made.

"The cases are still evolving," Lanier said. "We're still interviewing people from overnight."

The weekend slayings, which do not include the police shooting, pushed the city's homicide toll to 72 for this year, the first time that the 2008 body count has surpassed the number of slayings at the same time last year. Five of the killings took place in the 5th Police District, home to about 10 percent of the city's population. Crime in that Northeast police district has been especially heavy lately: 12 killings and 38 robberies in March and April, compared with three slayings and 17 robberies during the same period last year.

"We owe this community a more concentrated effort," Fenty said.

Such efforts have been promised before after similar spates of gun violence. Twice in April, the mayor and police officials ordered beefed-up patrols in some of the areas besieged this weekend.

Five people were killed in four days in Northeast beginning April 14. Less than two weeks later, a citywide rash of violence left four men dead and 11 wounded in a 24-hour span. And in January, four teenagers were wounded in a drive-by shooting as classes were letting out at Ballou Senior High School in Southeast. Last year, 77 percent of the city's 181 killings involved firearms.

"We do not want to kick off the summer like this," Assistant Police Chief Diane Groomes said yesterday. "We need to get the guns out of people's hands."

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