Police vowed to increase street patrols in Columbia Heights yesterday after a second man was shot execution-style a block from a similar slaying Saturday night.
Rodrick Herbert Jones, 26, of the 600 block of Hamlin Street NE, was found by police at 11:44 p.m. Sunday under the skeleton of what used to be a swing set at the Girard Street playground. Jones was taken to Washington Hospital Center and pronounced dead at 1:12 a.m. yesterday, said Sgt. Joe Gentile, a police spokesman.
On Saturday, a man in his mid-twenties was found next to a black Jeep Cherokee at 15th and Fuller streets NW. He had been shot nearly beyond recognition, police said. Officials declined to identify the man yesterday because his family hadn't been notified.
The two slayings, in which each victim was shot more than a dozen times, have left residents in the diverse Columbia Heights neighborhood, where two other fatal shootings occurred this month, fearful of stepping outside.
"It's like killing season around here," said Morris Feggins, a 29-year-old student, who said he heard a dozen gunshots Sunday.
"I couldn't sleep until 4 or 5 in the morning, I was so scared," said a woman who lives across Girard Street NW from the playground and asked not to be named.
"People are just appalled," said Gracie Rolling, executive director of the Change Inc. community center in Columbia Heights. "The problems are not going away."
Police officials vowed to stem the violence. "We're going to saturate that place, because this is ridiculous," 3rd District Cmdr. Jose Acosta said yesterday.
Acosta said he would call in the summer mobile force, whose members work overtime to target violence-ridden areas.
The police patrol service area, or PSA, that includes the playground now has seen three homicides since May 16, when a 20-year-old man was killed in what police said was a drug-related dispute. That case is still open.
"Crime is down everywhere, in every PSA, in double digits, except these damn homicides and shootings that are popping up all over the city," Acosta said. "It's frustrating for everybody."
In another shooting nearby, police said an unidentified 20-year-old man was seriously injured yesterday when he was shot once in the neck during an argument around 5:10 p.m. in the 2500 block of 11th Street NW, just a few blocks from Columbia Heights.
Acosta said the weekend's killings were both drug-related, but it is uncertain whether they were linked. Police found marijuana near the victim of Saturday's shooting and cocaine near Jones's body, Acosta said.
In a telephone interview, Jones's mother, Carolyn Rodrick, described her son as "a mild-mannered, good kid." She said she had no idea why he was killed.
"He loved to draw and paint," Rodrick said. "I'm looking at a painting he made for me right now. It has water and a snake winding through a log."
Rodrick said her son grew up in Temple Hills, graduated from Crossland High School and recently worked as a landscaper.
The playground has become a no man's land to be avoided at all costs after dark. Few children play there. Empty liquor bottles and trash sit atop patches of grass. Longtime residents said the playground has been troubled for decades. It became the site of heroin dealing in the 1950s and was taken over by the city's Redevelopment Land Agency after the 1968 riots.
But housing was never built there. Instead, the District converted nearby apartment buildings into emergency shelters for homeless people, some of them with substance-abuse problems. In the 1980s, Jamaican drug posses used the playground as a base for crack cocaine sales.
"Even if it's getting out of control now, it used to be far, far, far worse," said Dorothy Brizill, a community activist who has lived on Girard Street, one block from the playground, since 1968.
Brizill's husband, Gary Imhoff, said, "That particular block of Girard Street has been one of the most resistant and one of the most troublesome" in a neighborhood he described as relatively safe. "The playground is a center of the problem."
The Rev. John DeTaeye, interim associate minister at All Souls Church, said a meeting of community leaders to discuss the playground is planned for Sept. 14. The violence at the site "is in such stark contrast to the economic development that's coming to the neighborhood," said DeTaeye, who added that he plans to pray at the playground.
Officials fear that the opening of the Columbia Heights station on the Metro Green Line, scheduled for Sept. 18, will bring even more activity into the area. Chief Barry J. McDevitt of the Metro transit police said officers will continue to patrol the area around the station and Metrobus stops.
At the park yesterday, residents said they hope the city will clean it up or shut it down. "I would build a fence up" and lock the park at night, said Lawrence Blair, 65, who lives on Belmont Street NW.
Feggins said keeping to oneself is vital to staying safe: "If you get caught up, you get caught up."
Staff writer Allan Lengel contributed to this report.
Columbia Heights Violence
Sunday's execution-style slaying adds one more victim to the recent spate of killings in Columbia Heights.
May 16: (Girard Street playground) 20-year-old man killed in drug-related shooting.
Aug. 14: (1300 block of Columbia Road) 24-year-old man ambushed and shot to death.
Aug. 15: (1400 block of Monroe Street) 20-year-old woman killed, two men injured in an apparent dispute.
Aug. 28: (15th and Fuller streets) Man in his mid- 20s shot execution-style outside grocery store.
Aug. 29: (Girard Street playground) 26-year-old man shot execution-style.
CAPTION: Lawrence Blair wheels past a congealed pool of blood from the second fatal shooting in this Columbia Heights playground in four months.
CAPTION: Neighbor Lawrence Blair said this troubled Girard Street playground should be fenced off and locked every night.