A May 12 Metro article incorrectly identified the mother of Raashed and Ricardo Hall, the brothers charged in the slaying of 8-year-old Chelsea Cromartie. Her name is Cheryl Hall, not Juanita Hall. (Published 05/22/04).
The brothers charged with killing 8-year-old Chelsea Cromartie told police that they were targeting two teenagers who were standing on the front porch of the home where the little girl was watching television, prosecutors said in court papers yesterday.
Raashed Hall and Ricardo Hall told police that they had repeatedly driven around the Northeast Washington neighborhood on the evening of May 3 before stopping in front of a house in the 800 block of 52nd Street, where they found the teenagers. Raashed Hall told detectives that he leaned across his brother and fired several shots out the driver's window at the teenagers, prosecutors stated.
The shots missed the teenagers and crashed through the living room window, hitting Chelsea in the head and the girl's aunt in the shoulder. Chelsea, her mother and 5-year-old brother were visiting the house where Chelsea's aunt, Darlene Taper, lived.
Raashed Hall, 21, was arrested Monday. His brother, 23, was taken into custody early yesterday. Both were charged with first-degree murder and gave detectives statements in which they vividly described an act of revenge gone awry.
Raashed Hall told police that the trouble began when he and his girlfriend were insulted by a group of teenagers outside a carryout restaurant on nearby Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue NE, prosecutors said. Hall said that his girlfriend pulled out a hammer during the confrontation but that the teenagers took it from her and used it to smash the windows of her car.
In charging papers, prosecutors quoted Hall as saying that he called his brother to tell him that he had been jumped and needed a "hammer" -- in this case, slang for a gun.
Both brothers told police that Ricardo Hall got a handgun and that they set off with their girlfriends in search of the teenagers, prosecutors said in charging papers.
"Ricardo Hall stated that he thought the plan was to locate the individuals, confront them, and scare them by shooting in the air," the charging documents said.
Prosecutors said the brothers dropped off their girlfriends and returned to the area where the confrontation had taken place.
D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said the teenagers were standing on the front porch of Taper's house because one of them had a connection to the family.
Both brothers described fleeing the area, and Ricardo Hall told police that he got rid of the gun in a wooded area in Montgomery County. He also told police that he sold the car that he and his brother were driving that night. Police had not located the gun as of last night.
Ramsey said charges could be filed against those involved in the altercation that led to the gunfire and against anyone who may have misled investigators in the case. Police have said that as many as 10 people were involved in the carryout dispute.
Late yesterday afternoon, the Halls appeared in D.C. Superior Court for the first time since they were charged in the third-grader's death. The courtroom was packed, and the crowd included members of the Cromartie and Hall families and at least a dozen marshals and security officers.
Standing side-by-side behind their attorneys, Gladys Joseph and Fred Sullivan, the brothers said nothing as the prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Cobb, asked that they be held without bond pending a hearing May 19. Magistrate Judge Hugh O. Stevenson granted the request, and both are being held at the D.C. jail.
The brothers are graduates of D.C. high schools who had steady jobs. They have no previous arrests involving violent behavior. They were valued by their employers and made favorable impressions in the neighborhood where they grew up.
Raashed Hall, who graduated in 1999 from Woodson Senior High School in Northeast Washington, has worked the past three years as a glass mechanic for Columbia Mirror & Glass of Georgetown Inc., in the 2200 block of Wisconsin Avenue NW. A co-worker yesterday said that Hall -- nicknamed Sheedy -- was a pleasant and dependable employee.
"The whole thing seems out of character," said the co-worker, who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the case. "Sheedy was not like that. He was such a good kid. . . . None of this makes sense. I almost passed out when I heard the news."
The brothers are lifelong D.C. residents. Neither has been convicted of a crime in the District, and only Raashed has faced another criminal charge -- a marijuana possession charge for which he was due back in court this week. He had recently moved into an apartment not far from where the shooting took place.
Ricardo Hall, who graduated in 1998 from Phelps Career Senior High School in Northeast Washington, has been a maintenance worker the past 21/2 years for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, cutting grass and performing other duties at parks in southern Montgomery County. He was assigned to the Meadowbrook maintenance facility, off East West Highway in Chevy Chase.
"They were very sweet boys, had very good manners, and they were smart, too," said a neighbor who knew the family a few years ago when they lived in a red-brick rowhouse in the 3000 block of Sherman Avenue NW. The neighbor spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The suspects' mother, Juanita Hall, whom neighbors remembered as a schoolteacher, moved in 2001 to a family-owned rowhouse in the 1300 block of K Street SE, according to city real estate records. Neighbors there said they were stunned to find out that the brothers were charged in the highly publicized case.
Ricardo Hall had moved out a couple of years ago, and his younger brother set out just a month or so ago, their father, Rick McKeython, 51, said in an interview after the court hearing. He said that both were happy to be out on their own.
When the boys were growing up, McKeython was a disciplinarian, he said. "I would always tell them, always stress to them, to be careful who you be around," he said.
Now, both men face charges that could send them to prison for decades for a crime that has gripped the hearts of the city -- and of their own family.
McKeython said he went to see the Cromartie family early yesterday afternoon to express his sorrow. "It had to be done," he said.
"I went there to express my feelings," he said. "I am deeply, deeply sorry."
Donna Taper, another of Chelsea's aunts, said outside the courthouse that the arrests were good for the community but did little to soothe the family's pain.
"We're glad they're off the street," she said. But "it's not a relief. Our baby's not here."
Taper said she had some sense of the ordeal the Hall family is beginning to endure. "I don't feel any hatred for them," she said. "I actually feel sorry for them."
The charging papers indicate that police got their biggest break in the case over the weekend. An anonymous tipster gave police the name of Raashed Hall, authorities said. One of the teenagers on the porch subsequently identified a picture of Raashed Hall as the person who fired the gunshots.
Raashed Hall voluntarily met with police Sunday and gave them a videotaped statement. Police arranged for him to surrender Monday. Ricardo Hall voluntarily met with police Monday and also gave a videotaped statement, authorities said.
Staff writers Justin Blum, Petula Dvorak, Serge F. Kovaleski and Del Quentin Wilber and staff researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.