Two suspects were arrested and charged yesterday in the fatal Halloween shootings of a pair of Southeast Washington teenagers, a tragedy that D.C. police think started as a trivial dispute but ended with 9mm handguns and a fusillade of gunshots.
Gregory Williams, 21, of the 1400 Block of Howard Road SE, was charged with murder in the slayings of Doniell Smith, 14, and Rowland Ford, 15. A 17-year-old from Northeast was arrested and charged with murder as a juvenile.
"We know that there was some contact between the two who were killed and another group that night," said Cmdr. Rodney Monroe, of the 6th District. "The fact that our youth today are confronting their problems with guns for very trivial things that would not and should not have precipitated that kind of action is very alarming."
In a one-month period, four teenagers have been shot and killed in the 6th District, which covers parts of Southeast and Northeast Washington. The murders highlight what police think is a serious problem for the area's teenagers: petty arguments solved with guns instead of the less-deadly fistfight. The deaths also point to the ease with which young people obtain firearms, despite national discussion about gun control, Monroe said.
"Here in the 6th District, it's been a very alarming month. Not only are youth victims, but they are suspects in many of these cases," Monroe said yesterday. "There needs to be less accessibility of weapons. How these guns are falling into these kids' hands is the elusive question."
About 24 hours before the Halloween shooting, Louis Queen, 18, of Northeast, was shot and killed at 18th and Q streets SE, about a block from where Smith and Ford were gunned down at 18th and P streets SE. Beverly Renee Fletcher, 17, a Dunbar High School student and well-known football and basketball player in her neighborhood, was fatally shot in the 4500 block of Quarles Street NE at 11:20 p.m. Nov 16.
Monroe said Fletcher had been in a dispute or fight with someone earlier in the day. The case is still being investigated. Police said they do not think any of the cases are connected.
Smith and Ford were shot as they returned from a party hosted by Galilee Baptist Church at a skating rink.
Ford, of the 1500 block of 25th Street SE, was an honor student at Anacostia High School and was enrolled in the school's pre-law program. Smith, of the 2100 block of Fairlawn Avenue SE, was a solid student at Kramer Middle School. He was trying to learn to play the drums so he could join the church's band.
The two suspects charged in the shootings are scheduled to be arraigned today in D.C. Superior Court.
The families of Smith and Ford said yesterday that they were pleased that there were arrests.
"We will be praying a lot, and of course we are still sad that they are not with us," said Beatrice Mayes, Smith's grandmother. "Now we just have to wait and see what happens."