The residents of the 100 block of Bates Street NW say they've had enough. After three neighborhood children were shot there in May, residents demanded greater police presence and quick action against drug dealers in the neighborhood.
But tranquillity has not come to the block, a part of Shaw just off North Capitol Street about a mile north of Union Station. Several incidents of gunfire have erupted on the block in the two months since the May shooting. Shortly after midnight yesterday, a young man was fatally wounded in what police said was a drive-by shooting.
Police responded to the scene at 12:38 a.m., said Sgt. Joe Gentile, a police spokesman. Upon arrival, they found Earl Lee "Reds" Bannister, 23, of the 100 block of Q Street NW, who had been shot in the upper body. Bannister was taken to Howard University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 1:04 a.m.
Residents said the slaying was only the latest in a string of crimes that have left some of them fearful to step outside.
Robert T. Little, a community activist who lives in the unit block of Bates Street, was lying in bed early Sunday when a bullet pierced his second-floor bedroom window and ricocheted off a wall. "If I had been near that window, I would have been dead," he said.
Little said he thought the shooting was in retaliation for his efforts to help patrol officers clean up the block. Police said yesterday that they were investigating the incident.
Residents said the gang- and drug-related violence has a number of roots. Although the houses along Bates Street's two-block stretch were rehabilitated using federal housing funds in the 1970s, young people still lack places to spend their time productively, said Joyce A. Robinson-Paul, a member of the 5C Advisory Neighborhood Commission who lives nearby on N Street. "If you have no places for the kids to go, what do you expect the police to do except take them to jail?" she asked.
Residents flocked to community meetings and demanded greater police protection after the shooting of the three children--two 9-year-old cousins and a 13-year-old boy--on May 2. All three survived. D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey promised to provide more support.
Residents said there still isn't enough of a presence. "The gangs are ruling. They're taking over," Little said.
Capt. Barry Malkin, of the 3rd Police District, which includes Bates Street, said, "We can't have someone on the block 24 hours." At least one officer patrols the neighborhood around the street at all times, he added.
Lt. Ronald Netter, whose patrol service area includes Bates Street, said all crime, excluding homicide, has dropped 12 percent this year from the same period last year. The patrol service area has seen two homicides this year, including yesterday's, Netter said.
Netter said the problem on Bates Street lies not with the police but with deeper social problems.
"The parents of these kids are the ones that we ought to be addressing, and the police department cannot be solving these problems alone," Netter said.
Netter said Bannister had been involved in a fistfight on the street two weeks earlier. Netter said that when he arrived on the scene, the fight had ended and that several young people hanging around, including Bannister's sister, declined to provide information. "Nobody would open their mouth," he said. A man who answered the phone at Bannister's home yesterday and identified himself as the victim's brother declined to comment.
A meeting to discuss the crime problem, sponsored by the North Capitol Area Business Association, is planned for 10 a.m. today, said Richard SoWell, an association spokesman.