Teen-aged boys were flashing five fingers at passersby along Clay Terrace NE yesterday, a sign that $5 bags of marijuana were still for sale. Although one of their own had been gunned down by masked men on Halloween night, it was business as usual for the others.
"You know it's dangerous when you come out here," one 16-year-old said of Clay Terrace, a horseshoe that loops off of 53rd Street NE. "That's why they call it the 'Firing Line.' I guess they gonna beef up the heat now that my man got killed, buy hey, I know I ain't gonna starve."
Mark Warren, 18, who had worked Clay Terrace nearly two years, was there Friday afternoon when a marijuana transaction erupted into a fistfight. That night, he visited his girlfriend and their 2-year-old son, who live just off the terrace, to tell them he was finished with the street life.
As they talked and strolled along 53rd Street near her home Warren was grabbed by two men wearing Halloween masks.
"I thought it was a trick until one of them put a gun to his head," recalled Alvonette Grimes, 18, the girlfriend. "The other guy started grabbing at his clothes, trying to rob him. I saw Mark break away, then they started shooting. He grabbed his stomach and run up the hill [to Clay Terrace]. When I caught up with him, he was lying in the streets."
Warren, who lived at 3618 Minnesota Ave. SE., was taken to D.C. General Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 10:45 p.m. Friday. No arrests have been made in connection with the case.
Warren attended Eastern and Woodson High Schools, but did not graduate. He had applied for a job with the city's Environmental Services Department as a trashman but had not received a reply. Grimes recalled that he had been working the streets to buy diapers and the baby milk she had requested.
"He was all right. We had been together for six years. I kept telling him to get a day job and get off the streets, and he would say he was really trying. I believed he was. But there was always someone that turns you back, if you're really weak.
All day yesterday, cars slowly cruised through Clay Terrace, checking for the finger signs. Among them were four vice squad detectives riding together in a white Plymouth. They were known among the street people as "the jump out squad," because of their fleet-footed arrest tactics.
"You have some real good family up there, but it seems like the bad is starting to outweigh the good," one policeman said. "It's like any housing project where you have broken families and lots of juveniles. These kids may not have the greatest speech patterns or read so hot, but they are very intelligent, they know what's going on. Some of them have bright futures."
"Many of them had," he added grimly.