An 18-year-old Northeast Washington man has been charged in the Sept. 24 shooting of U Street shop owner Kenneth Barnes Jr. and two earlier homicides that occurred near the suspect's home in the drug-plagued Trinidad neighborhood.
James D. Hill, of the 1200 block of Trinidad Avenue NE, was arrested Sept. 27, when he surrendered to a detective, according to Lt. Michael Pavlik, of the 5th Police District. He has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder while armed, according to court documents. The two previous homicides occurred in the 5th District on Sept. 30, 2000, and Aug. 22 of this year.
Barnes's death generated the most publicity because he was well known on U Street NW for his flamboyant personality and the exotic clothes his Boutique U sold to the club crowd.
According to an affidavit filed in support of an arrest warrant, Barnes, 37, was killed during an apparent robbery attempt. The affidavit says that Hill entered the store with another, unidentified man and that after five minutes of conversation, he pulled out a rust-colored .45-caliber handgun.
Hill shot Barnes once in the head, then rifled through Barnes's pockets, according to the affidavit. Barnes tried to take money from the cash register, court documents allege, and fired once at -- and missed -- a bystander who tried to stop him.
Court documents say a witness to the shooting picked Hill out of a photo array, but Lt. Guy Middleton, of the 3rd District, would not discuss in detail how police linked Hill to the crime.
At the time of Barnes's death, Hill was wanted for a September 2000 homicide in the 1300 block of Trinidad Avenue NE, near Hill's home. Court documents say that witnesses saw Hill shoot Otis T. Graham, 18, as Graham sat in his pickup truck and that the murder weapon was later found in Hill's bedroom.
The affidavit said the motive for Graham's shooting was a "beef" between rival gangs from nearby neighborhoods. A first-degree murder warrant for Hill had been issued last month in Graham's killing.
After Barnes's death, D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) and U Street merchants criticized D.C. police, saying investigations and neighborhood patrols had suffered following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Lt. Pavlik said the investigation and search for Hill weren't impeded by other events.
Hill has also been charged in the Aug. 22 homicide of Eric N. Nelson, who was shot multiple times near Trinidad Avenue and Neal Street NE, according to court documents.
One witness told police that Hill continued to shoot Nelson as Nelson crawled on hands and knees across Neal Street, according to the affidavit. Nelson told another witness, "Dee shot me," using Hill's nickname, the affidavit says. No motive for the shooting was given in the arrest warrant affidavit.