Verona Lewis heard the shots, heard the people running through the courtyard, and knew someone was dead.
She was right. While Lewis called 911, only to get a busy signal and then be put on hold momentarily, Richard Alexander, 27, was dying on the concrete outside the Potomac Gardens housing project at 1210 I St. SE.
It was 2:15 yesterday morning, and all around the city tempers were high. It was a long, hot night, "just like Dodge City, a hot weekend, lots happening," said District police Sgt. Anthony Mitchell. By midday, the mercury would soar to 97 degrees, breaking the record set in 1895 by 2. The night had not been much cooler.
Alexander's was one of five bodies recovered in the District. Three holdup men killed a pimp, witnesses said. A street argument ended when one man killed another, police said. And police pulled two unidentified bodies out of the Anacostia River.
There were other shootings, too. Police said Kirk Cooper, 31, of Northwest got shot in the face in an accident at his home; two boys, ages 12 and 13, were caught raping a 14-year-old girl. And there were nearly 300 calls for ambulances, leaving the city's beleaguered street medics hard pressed.
At 10:35 p.m. Friday, three men approached a pimp called "Magic" at 15th and K streets NW and demanded his cash and jewelry, according to police and witness accounts. The man resisted and tried to run away. One of the robbers pulled a handgun and fired several times. One bullet ripped into the man's chest, killing him.
"Magic was from New York, and he was here with two ladies who were working the street," said a witness to the shooting, a man who said he has known Magic for several years. "He didn't want to give up his change, so they hit him in the face and then shot him."
The pimp's "change," the witness said, was about $1,000. The victim, who moved his business from city to city every few days, according to the witness, wore alligator boots and a big black cowboy hat.
Three hours later, police arrested Steven Armstrong, 31, Tyrone Pittman, 26, and Ardie Dorsey, 18, all of Baltimore, and charged them with felony murder.
At 1:05 a.m. yesterday, Melvin March, 31, of the 2500 block of Pomeroy Road SE was shot several times as he stood in the street in front of 4677 S. Capitol Ter. SW. Police said March had been arguing with another man.
Aaron Lomax, 29, was arrested and charged with murder while armed.
An hour later, Richard Alexander, 27, who lived at 810 Chesapeake St. SE, was shot in the parking lot outside the Potomac Gardens project.
Police said they had no suspect, no motive.
"A lot of everything happens around here," Lewis said. "The only thing I know to do is, when I hear the shots, I run in the house and call the 911. I didn't want to believe what I've been hearing about the 911, but it's true. Line's busy. Then they put me on hold. Then I told them, and the ambulance came, but the boy was dead."
No details were available immediately about the bodies found in the Anacostia River.
One was found near RFK Stadium.
Staff writer Joseph E. Bouchard contributed to this report.