Killings of Mother, Grandmother Stun Neighbors; Residents Mourn Unintended Victims, Request Additional Security

Two gun battles, two innocent women killed, in two weeks. Too much.

Like Dona Elizabeth Ferguson before her, Helen Foster-El was in the middle of a routine activity at the wrong time. Ferguson was adjusting curtains when a bullet from a drug deal gone sour pierced her window in Capitol Heights. Foster-El was watching children play outside her home at the East Capitol Dwellings in Southeast Washington when several men fought, returned with guns and started shooting.

The 55-year-old grandmother, described by a friend as "very quiet, very soft-spoken," was shot in the back and the leg as she rounded up children and tried to usher them to safety. She died minutes later. Three men have been charged.

Foster-El isn't the only victim of violence at East Capitol. Seven people were killed there during the first 10 months of last year, and every day the 900 children at the public housing complex feel the pain.

"Mentally and physically, these kids are being scarred," said resident Joyce Stoddard. "We need some counseling down here. We need church services 24 hours a day. We need to have a town meeting.

"Nobody cares," she said.

A playground was built there in April, but Gail White, a neighbor of Foster-El's, said it is too dangerous for children because drug dealers hang out there.

"It's very stressful around here, especially for the kids," said White, whose three youngest children have had trouble sleeping since Foster-El was shot. Her oldest daughters, both teenagers, are staying with relatives for now, afraid to return.

One of the approximately 20 bullets fired that night ripped through the third-floor bedroom window of 9-year-old Latreviete Hawley.

"I'm scared to sleep in that room," Latreviete said. "Because it seems like somebody's gonna be shooting again while I'm in there."

Yesterday, District police brought in Park Police and National Guard helicopters after more bystanders were shot.

The Big Cut That Wasn't; Virginia's Public Colleges Raise Fees

Some officials in Virginia are giving, and others are taking away.

Led by Gov. James S. Gilmore III (R), state lawmakers set aside $75 million this year to finance tuition cuts that were supposed to decrease tuition by 20 percent, or an average of $557 per student. But the state's 15 public colleges raised other fees, reducing the tuition cut by an average of $176 for students who live on campus.

Gilmore and state legislators from both political parties cried foul and vowed to renew efforts to cut students' expenses. "I think the news people will remember, how 20 percent became 4 percent, will bring it back," said Del. Kenneth R. Plum (R-Fairfax). "Higher ed is going to remain on the agenda--its access, its opportunity and its affordability."

Thug Life to Jail Life, Again; Film Subject Gets Second Sentence

"I'm still searching for myself. I'm still lost in the life of thug life," Aundrey Burno told his younger brother in an HBO documentary. "Don't die for no street. It's rough back here."

Burno was 16 when he shot a District police officer in the neck for a Glock pistol. Five weeks later, shortly after buying ice cream, he shot a teenager three times, killing him.

But there is hope for the imprisoned Burno, said the two producers of "Thug Life in D.C.," which aired last month. "There is someone behind the mask who is capable of changing," Marc Levin and Daphne Pinkerson wrote to D.C. Superior Court Judge Henry F. Greene. "We saw . . . [an] introspective and eloquent young man with great potential."

But Greene wasn't buying it. Saying he had never seen a criminal less likely to turn his life around, the judge sentenced Burno to 45 years to life for killing the teenager. Because Burno, 20, already is serving a lengthy term for shooting the police officer, sentencing guidelines indicate that he will be in his eighties before he's eligible for parole.

Across the Region

Williams Fined; Meter Maladies

* Shane S. DeLeon was already in trouble for allegedly driving when he shouldn't have. Now he's in much deeper for walking when he wasn't allowed to. DeLeon is charged with second-degree murder in the January hit-and-run death of Matthew O'Dell, an American University student, shortly after DeLeon reportedly had consumed four glasses of beer. He remains at large after leaving a District halfway house where he was awaiting trial.

* It took an all-white jury only 25 minutes to convict a Ku Klux Klan leader of violating a Virginia law against cross-burning. But although Barry Elton Black could have been imprisoned for five years, jurors in Hillsville recommended a fine of $2,500 and no jail time. Black's attorney, David P. Baugh, who is African American, said he would appeal the verdict. "We're never going to be buddies, and he knows that," Baugh said of Black. "But if I can't protect him, I can't protect anyone else."

* Saying he was wrong in failing to promptly disclose that he had received $40,000 from two consulting contracts, District Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) agreed to pay a $1,000 fine. Williams accepted the money for consulting services that began while he was campaigning for mayor last summer and ended in December after he became mayor-elect.

* Saying she wants her "life back," Mary Moran filed for divorce from U.S. Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), a day after she told police he had grabbed and pushed her during an argument at their Alexandria home. No arrests were made, a decision that Moran said she supported. "I'm not a victim of anything. I just want out," she said. James Moran declined to respond to his wife's allegations but said he, too, would file for divorce.

* Prospective math and English teachers in Virginia had better keep studying. The state's Board of Education has raised the bar in its quest to improve teacher standards, meaning that new teachers of those subjects will have to meet the highest minimum test scores in the country. Critics worry that the new rules will worsen the state's teacher shortage, but education officials say teachers must do better before children can.

* You put your quarter in. You get your time on the parking meter. Or do you? Not in the District, if your coins have the slightest flaw. All 15,000 of the city's new meters are being sent back to the Arkansas manufacturer for adjustments because meters sometimes don't credit coins properly. "It's like an unfriendly slot machine," said Gabriel Goldberg, who dropped two quarters into a meter near MCI Center, to no avail. "But I guess it is a wonderful revenue enhancer for the District."

* The Senate Appropriations Committee endorsed most of the District's $4.7 billion consensus budget, including the largest tax cut in the city's history. But the panel wouldn't go along with a proposed 15.6 percent pay increase for members of the D.C. Council, and it slashed the raise to 5 percent instead. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) said the $92,500 salary was too much because all council members, except Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D), are allowed to earn outside income.

Making Waves at the Corcoran; Renowned Architect Gehry to Design Museum's Addition

As an architect, Frank O. Gehry isn't exactly a "big box" kind of guy. His Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, is a monument to imagination and invention and has been heralded as one of the boldest building designs in decades.

So what, then, is Gehry, 70, doing in staid Washington? Designing an addition to the Corcoran Gallery of Art, after being chosen for the project from more than 200 architects.

Gehry's early sketches of the addition's exterior feature billowing, wavelike arcs similar to those in Bilbao, but don't hold him to it. "It is not just a souffle we put together in 15 minutes just to upset Washington," he said. The eventual design will be the result of careful collaboration, and his early ideas are just a "starting point."

The design process for the $40 million project is expected to take a year, and construction of the wing, which will house the Corcoran's art school and provide room for an expanded children's education center, could start in 2001.

CAPTION: Gail White, left, sits with her neighbor's child, 3-year-old Johnisha Turner, near the area where Helen Foster-El was fatally shot in Southeast Washington.

CAPTION: Helen Foster-El was fatally shot while trying to protect some children.

CAPTION: Frank O. Gehry proposed blending billowing waves with the existing Corcoran building.