Part One: The Southeast Washington drive-by shootings: Prelude to a tragedy

Residents and the families of four people killed in a shooting March 30 in Southeast Washington called for tougher crime laws at an emotional D.C. Council hearing Monday. Murder charges have been filed in one of the District's deadliest shootings in years, police said.
By Paul Duggan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 3, 2010

On the wrist of Sanquan "Bootsy" Carter, the bracelet looked like what it was: a band of cheap yellow metal, 1 5/8 inches wide, encrusted with scores of sparkly glass studs.

Just chintzy bling.

To its impetuous young owner, though, it was a dazzling bangle, and it would become a wellspring of violence and sorrow after it went missing one night while Bootsy partied in a Southeast Washington apartment.

Which is where the story begins.

It ends at South Capitol and Brandywine streets SE, just over a week later, March 30, in a burst of gunfire that jolted the city's conscience: a drive-by attack that killed three people, ages 16 to 19, and wounded six, including the only victim older than 20, shot in the head and still unconscious.

All of it off that bracelet.

The carnage took about half a minute. But a lot of lethal scheming and prior mayhem gave rise to it -- a lot of low-watt thinking and impulsive vengeance unfolding over the previous nine days in an underworld of dope-peddling and casual murder, a prelude as vicious and squalid as this 30-second finale:

Nursing week-old bullet wounds and a homicidal grudge, police said, the driver eased the silver Chrysler Town & Country to a halt in front of 4022 South Capitol St., a dilapidated brick house. At least 15 young people were milling on the sidewalk and perched on the concrete steps in the early evening. Down went the windows of the minivan, and gunfire flashed, 23 shots from three guns ripping indiscriminately into the crowd, the victims shrieking as they spun and fell in heaps.

This is about why it happened.

This is about the nine days and nights leading to those seconds -- the overture to the deadliest spasm of street violence in the city's memory.

In that span, starting when a 19-year-old got angry about his missing bling, police said, five other people were shot, two fatally, as stymied detectives tried to quash an emerging spiral of tit-for-tat bloodshed, playing cat-and-mouse across the urban crimescape with a crew of quick-triggered thugs.

They failed.

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