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'He was innocent. He did nothing to anyone.'

As a D.C. mother mourns, a suspect is arrested in the fatal shooting of her 9-year-old son

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Family, friends, neighbors and city officials gather Monday night in honor of Oscar Fuentes, the 9-year-old boy killed by a bullet shot through the door of his apartment on the 1400 block of Columbia Road NW.
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The mother of the slain child, just done identifying her 9-year-old son from a morgue photo and headed next to a funeral home, stood in the brilliant sunshine outside the D.C. medical examiner's office, a diminutive woman freighted with grief, her face drawn from sleeplessness, her eyes moist and red.

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"He was a really happy boy," Maritza Fuentes said in Spanish, her only language.

Oscar Fuentes lived on the second floor of a dingy building in Columbia Heights. On Saturday night, he was standing behind the locked wooden door of his family's apartment, trying to get a glimpse through a peephole after a commotion outside.

A man with a gun stood in the dim hallway just beyond the apartment door. The robber fired blindly through the door, police said, and the bullet found Oscar, who was in the fourth grade.

"He was innocent," his mother said. "He did nothing to anyone."

On Tuesday, as police and District officials gathered for a news conference in front of the building at 1433 Columbia Rd. NW to announce an arrest, Maritza Fuentes, 38, a cleaning woman who came to the United States from El Salvador 18 years ago, rode with relatives to a squat brick building in Southeast Washington. There, morgue protocol required that she view a snapshot of Oscar's lifeless face and nod yes, that was her son.

The suspect, Josue Pena, 26, who Fuentes said is a stranger to her family, was arrested on a murder charge early Tuesday. At Pena's initial appearance in D.C. Superior Court, a judge ordered him jailed without bond pending a hearing Dec. 1.

Meanwhile, more details of the shooting emerged from interviews with Oscar's mother and relatives who joined her at the medical examiner's office.

Maritza Fuentes had gone to a baby shower Saturday with others in her family. She returned to the apartment about 9:30 p.m. and was inside with her 54-year-old mother, Oscar and an older son when the trouble began outside, said Fuentes's cousin Alicia Fuentes.

Alicia Fuentes said she and four relatives were walking on Columbia Road after the shower, headed to Maritza Fuentes's apartment for a visit, when they passed a man outside the building. It was just after 9:30. She said the man followed them inside, entering through the building's broken front door.

Tenants have long complained about the cracked and warped door, which has no knob or lock.

"He came in behind us," Alicia Fuentes said. "When we were walking up the stairs, he said he wanted money." In an affidavit filed in court, homicide detectives said Pena told the group: "Your money or your life."


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