THE DISTRICT

Police to Probe Group Homes

The D.C. police will spearhead an investigation into deaths over the last six years in the District's group homes for the retarded, Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey announced last night.

The investigation follows publication of reports in The Washington Post detailing unchecked abuses and the uninvestigated deaths of 116 group home residents.

The probe, which is being organized in response to a directive issued by Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D), will be led by the police major crimes unit, according to Sgt. Joe Gentile, the police spokesman. The major crimes unit typically investigates the most serious offenses.

According to Ramsey, police officials already have met with other law enforcement agencies active in the city: the U.S. attorney's office, the FBI and the office of the D.C. corporation counsel.

Gentile asked that anyone with information call the major crimes unit at 202-727-4347.

On Monday, Williams cited "appalling lapses" in the city's treatment of the mentally retarded and said government employees "from top to bottom" would be held accountable for services to those residents.

He promised increased scrutiny of the city's 150 group homes, particularly those funded by Medicaid.

Shootings by Police Decline

The number of shootings this year by D.C. police has declined, Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey announced yesterday.

Ten people were shot by police from January to November of this year, compared with 32 for that period in 1998. Four of the 10 shot this year died, compared with 12 last year.

Ramsey attributed the decline to new policies and better training and equipment. The chief revised the department's policy on the use of force a year ago after a Washington Post investigation.

"The department's past problems with use of force--in particular use of deadly force--have primarily been problems with policies, training, equipment and supervision," Ramsey said.

Lawyer Admits to False Claims

A Washington criminal defense lawyer pleaded guilty yesterday to federal charges that she submitted false reimbursement claims for representing indigent defendants in court proceedings.

Retna M. Pullings, 50, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to theft and tax evasion charges. Prosecutors said she inflated claims in two cases and also failed to file a federal income tax return in 1996.

MARYLAND

Man Charged With 3 Robberies

A 36-year-old Prince George's County man was arrested Monday in connection with three robberies in Montgomery County, officials said yesterday.

Jerome Alexander Smith, of the 1900 block of Palmer Road in Landover, was arrested Monday after a holdup at a store in Bethesda, and charged in that and two other Bethesda holdups.

VIRGINIA

State to Investigate Doctors

State prosecutors in Richmond kicked off a program yesterday to crack down on doctors who commit fraud, announcing the indictment of an anesthesiologist on felony charges.

The indictment of Peter Leonard Lipsius on 14 wire fraud counts and one charge of using a false Social Security number to get a job was announced at a news conference on Operation Gatekeeper. The effort will seek federal prosecution of doctors who commit fraud to get medical licenses or jobs in Virginia.