A 13-year-old girl died in D.C. General Hospital late Saturday of stab wounds suffered earlier in the day when she was attacked on steps behind Woodson Junior High School in Northeast Washington.
It was the fifth attack on a girl on D.C. school property since Sept. 18.
The victim, Latanya Lassiter, of 4261 Edson Place NE, died of stab wounds to the chest at 10:30 p.m. while in surgery at D.C. General Hospital, more than 12 hours after the attack.
Before she died, the Woodson eighth grader said she was stabbed several times by a man as she took a shortcut through the back of the schoolyard on her way to the grocery store, her mother, Shirley Lassiter, said yesterday.
The junior high school, at 4101 Minnesota Ave. NE, is about two blocks from the Lassiter apartment.
Police said that several persons on an adjacent field, where a football team was preparing for a game, heard the girl screaming and rushed over to help her. An ambulance took her to D.C. General Hospital.
Shirley Lassiter, 39, a housekeeper at State Plaza Hotel in Northwest, was at work Saturday when police called. When Lassiter was able to speak with her daughter at the hospital, the girl told her she had been attacked by a man she had never seen before.
"She said a man started to follow her. . . . She started running. . . . He caught her by her coat and covered her mouth. . . . He started beating and cutting on her," the mother recalled.
Yesterday evening, D.C. City Council member H. R. Crawford, who represents Ward 7, said that he had been besieged with telephone calls from ward residents who were alarmed and angry about Lassiter's death. Residents "have been complaining about that wooded area for quite some time," Crawford said, explaining that the park near the school grounds has been a popular hangout for young people.
Crawford said police have had a hard time keeping the area clear because the city does not have an anti-loitering law.
School officials said yesterday that they are asking principals of all schools to alert students not to walk alone to and from school and to avoid secluded areas, measures that have been taken in the neighborhood around Bancroft Elementary School in Northwest, where two 5-year-old girls have been sexually assaulted, and a third abducted briefly since Sept. 18. Police said they believe the same man was responsible for all three Bancroft incidents.
Shirley Lassiter said she and her six children moved from their home in Northwest to the Edson Place apartment last July. But Latanya, described by family members as reserved and mature, missed her old neighborhood and friends. "I told you I didn't want to live over there," she said to her mother at the hospital yesterday.
Shirley Lassiter said yesterday she was at a loss to explain why anyone would attack her daughter.
In addition to the attacks on three Bancroft girls, a 10-year-old girl was raped last Thursday near Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Southeast. A suspect in that attack has been charged.
Police said yesterday that they did not believe that the Lassiter girl had been sexually assaulted.
In the Bancroft area, alarmed parents have demanded action from school officials and police.
Schools Superintendent Floretta McKenzie will announce Wednesday the institution of new security measures at all schools, including requiring visitors' passes and the posting of no-trespassing signs, schools spokeswoman Janice Cromer said yesterday. In discussions last week with Police Chief Maurice Turner, Cromer said, McKenzie "was primarily concerned with increasing school security in elementary schools," which have received less attention than the higher grades.
The superintendent and police chief also are considering stepping up security during non-school hours, when three of the recent attacks occurred. When the schools are closed, school security personnel normally check the buildings only periodically for break-ins, Cromer said