3 suspects in D.C. drive-by deaths to be jailed until trials

One of the suspects charged in a deadly drive-by shooting has pleaded guilty to five counts of second-degree murder while armed and two counts of conspiracy to commit murder.
By Keith L. Alexander
Saturday, May 1, 2010

A D.C. Superior Court judge Friday ordered three of the five suspects in last month's deadly drive-by shooting held in jail until their trials, despite attempts by the men's lawyers to raise questions about the credibility of the government's key witness.

Judge Michael L. Rankin listened to nearly two hours of testimony by the lead detective in the case before ordering Robert Bost, 22, Jeffrey D. Best, 21, and Lamar Williams, 22, held.

Homicide Detective Oliver Garvey testified about three separate but related shootings, including a drive-by on South Capitol Street SE, that left five people dead and eight wounded. It was one of the worst outbreaks of violence in the District in years.

Another suspect, Orlando Carter, 20, had been ordered held at a previous hearing. All four men are charged with multiple counts of first-degree, premeditated murder.

Garvey detailed the events of the shootings, based primarily on the account of Nathaniel D. Simms, the fifth suspect. Simms, 26, has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in exchange for a possible lighter sentence.

On Thursday, Simms pleaded guilty to five counts of second-degree murder while armed as part of an agreement with prosecutors. Simms, who admitted shooting an AK-47 rifle into a crowd during the drive-by that killed three bystanders, faces 25 years to life in prison unless authorities reduce his sentence.

On Friday, attorneys for Williams, Best and Bost spent much of the hearing questioning the motive and authenticity of Simms's account. They cited Simms's previous convictions, including one for drug possession, as evidence of his lack of reliability.

Bost's attorney, Todd Baldwin, asked Garvey whether Simms ever admitted to having any fights or disagreements with Bost. Garvey said there had not been any.

"Mr. Simms was just providing what occurred over those several days," Garvey said.

Under cross-examination by Best's attorney, Michael O'Keefe, Garvey said he failed to mention during earlier testimony that a girlfriend of Best's said that he was at her apartment at the time of the shootings.

Williams's attorney, John Carney, said Simms never said Williams was at any of the shootings, only that his client provided a couple of the guns used. Carney said that unlike Best and Bost, who had convictions for either gun or drug possession, Williams has no felony convictions.

Rankin was unmoved and ordered the three held.

Simms told detectives that the first shooting occurred the morning of March 22 after Carter's brother said he was missing a bracelet after a party. One party-goer was killed.

The second and third shootings occurred March 30. Simms told authorities that the group planned to rob Tavon Nelson, 17, of his gun. Nelson was standing outside his apartment complex on Galveston Street SW when he was shot and killed. Moments later, the five men, wearing "black ninja-type masks," drove to South Capitol Street, where Simms pointed the AK-47, Bost fired a .45-caliber pistol and Best fired a 9mm semiautomatic pistol at the crowd, killing three people, according to court documents.

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