Probe of School Strafing May Take Weeks

A D.C. National Guard spokesman said yesterday that it could take weeks to determine whether pilot error or mechanical failure caused a fighter jet based at Andrews Air Force Base to strafe a New Jersey intermediate school this week.

The F-16 from the Guard's 113th Wing accidentally fired about two dozen rounds of ammunition during a nighttime training mission Wednesday at a gunnery range about four miles from Little Egg Harbor, causing minor damage to the school. No injuries were reported.

Although officials would not release the pilot's name during the investigation, Col. Jeff Johnson, 113th Wing vice commander, described the aviator as "an experienced F-16 pilot." Staff Sgt. Lorenzo Parnell, a Guard spokesman, said "it's going to take several weeks" to determine the cause of the incident.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) wrote an angry letter to Maj. Gen. David F. Wherley Jr., commanding general of the D.C. Air National Guard, asking for a meeting to discuss the incident.

Emergency Hazmat Ban Near Mall Backed

D.C. Council member Kathy Patterson (D-Ward 3) said she will introduce emergency legislation Tuesday that would ban large truck and rail shipments of toxic chemicals through or near the Mall.

At a briefing yesterday with reporters, environmentalists and council staff, Patterson said the federal government has failed to address the issue for more than a year. "We can't remove the threat of terror, but we can remove the risk of hazardous cargo," said Patterson, chairman of the council's Judiciary Committee.

If approved by the council and signed by the mayor, the legislation would take effect immediately for 90 days. It would bar large shipments of such chemicals as chlorine and ammonia from passing through or near the Mall unless a permit was obtained from the city demonstrating that there is no practical alternative route.

A CSX Corp. spokesman said the legislation is unnecessary because the safety of shipments is already being addressed. A Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman said the private sector has taken the necessary steps to ensure that security measures are in place.

Council member Carol Schwartz (R-At Large), co-sponsor of a bill introduced last year to prohibit the shipments, said yesterday that much of the intent of that legislation is being met and that passing the emergency bill "might be counterproductive."

Mother of 2 Slain Sons Calls for Activism

Former D.C. school board member Valencia Mohammed, who recently lost a second son to gun violence, yesterday called for police officials and the public to do more to stop homicides.

Mohammed's son, Imtiaz Mohammed, 23, was fatally shot in the 800 block of Rittenhouse Street NW about 5:30 p.m. Oct. 28. Another son, Said Raqib, 14, was slain while in the family's home in March 1999. Both cases remain unsolved.

"This is my second child, my second one, that I have sacrificed in the District of Columbia," Mohammed said at a news conference outside D.C. police headquarters. Mohammed, a longtime civic activist who was on the school board from 1992 to 1996, urged people with information about homicides to come forward and called for police to do more to protect them.

She was joined by Kenneth E. Barnes Sr., whose son was killed during a robbery in September 2001. Barnes heads a nonprofit group that provides support to families of homicide victims.

Free Child Safety Seat Inspections Offered

D.C. police and the city's Department of Transportation will offer free inspections of child safety seats on seven Saturdays at various locations in the city.

The schedule calls for inspections today at 2100 Mississippi Ave. SE and 2400 Shannon Pl. SE. Parents can have child safety seats inspected and fitted from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Authorities also will provide information on how to obtain low-cost safety seats. The complete schedule is posted on the D.C. police Web site,


Fairfax to Provide Transit Help to Seniors

A new bus will debut in Fairfax County this month as a place to train elderly riders to use public transit. The goal is to encourage ridership among retirees, who sometimes find the bus and Metro systems daunting.

A rebuilt Fairfax Connector bus -- dubbed MATT, for Mobile Accessible Travel Training -- will debut in Reston on Nov. 16, complete with a classroom area equipped with VCRs and other displays to teach seniors to read schedules and maps, signal drivers to stop and other elements of bus travel. The bus will then deliver riders to a nearby Metro station, where they will be shown how to buy Farecards and figure out how to reach their destinations.

To schedule a training session, call the county's Department of Transportation Senior Initiative at 703-324-1172.

Arlington Investor to Manage U-Va. Fund

The University of Virginia has hired Christopher J. Brightman to manage its $2.5 billion endowment fund, university officials said yesterday.

Brightman, 43, is the chief investment officer of Strategic Investment Group, a global investment firm in Arlington. He will succeed Alice W. Handy, who retired in January.


Pr. George's Courts to Reopen Monday

The District and Circuit courts of Prince George's County will reopen Monday, nearly a week after a massive fire gutted an adjoining section of the Criminal Court Complex, officials said yesterday.

Air quality tests done in the newer, three-story building -- attached to the ravaged portion by walkways -- found that it sustained no major damage from Wednesday's four-alarm blaze, which burned for more than 90 minutes and destroyed the historic, red-brick Duvall wing of the complex, said Rita Buettner, a spokeswoman for the state's court system.

Fire officials said they hope to know this weekend what caused the fire. Elected leaders said the blaze might have caused close to $40 million in damage.

"This is a better deal for the District of Columbia. The citizens may want baseball, but not at any cost. . . . We will locate on a site that brings citizens together rather than acts as a catalyst to divide them."

-- D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D),

on her plan to build a baseball park adjacent

to RFK Stadium instead of near the Navy Yard. -- Page A1

Compiled from reports by D'Vera Cohn, Manny Fernandez, Nicole Fuller, Hamil R. Harris, Lisa Rein and Jamie Stockwell and the Associated Press.