Five days after a man was killed in a robbery after leaving a wedding reception in Northeast Washington, Brookland resident Matthew Schilling went to the scene of the crime with a plan.
Schilling urged a crowd of more than 100 people who were at St. Francis Hall at the Franciscan Monastery last night for a question-and-answer session with D.C. police to join him in establishing a neighborhood watch group.
"There are crimes in Brookland. We do live in a city," said Schilling, a Montgomery County high school teacher. "But the violence involved in this crime was astonishing. It's hard to believe something could happen like this in Brookland."
"Our goal is not to stop the crime; that's not our job," said Schilling, 32. "We just want to help prevent it and let other people know it's okay to get involved."
The meeting followed the slaying late Saturday of George F. Longshore, a 58-year-old suburban Philadelphia man who was leaving the reception with his wife, daughter and son-in-law when they were held up by at least two men.
The assailants demanded money and began pistol-whipping three members of the group before they could comply. Longshore was shot after he threw his wallet at the assailants, police said.
Five hours later and a half-mile away, a 25-year-old man shot a 21-year-old Catholic University student after a dispute at a house party, police said. Albert Lee Booth, of the 700 block of 11th Street NE, has been charged in that shooting. Police are investigating the possibility that the shootings may be connected.
Residents at the meeting complained about a lack of police presence on neighborhood streets and a lack of response to such quality-of-life issues as litter, graffiti and inadequate lighting.
"I came in here tonight with a heavy heart because of what happened," said Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Kathy Henderson.
"But I felt good coming in here and seeing every seat taken. Ladies and gentlemen, don't let crime come in your neighborhood. You have to be vigilant."
At times the meeting was contentious, as citizens sparred with police over what they said was a lack of police presence in the neighborhood.
Robert I. Artisst Sr., also an advisory neighborhood commissioner, demanded that police take prompt action against crime.
"If someone had had patrols walking in this historic neighborhood, we wouldn't have that man killed," Artisst said. "I have yet to hear you say what's going to be the solution."
Police officials promised increased foot patrols and car checkpoints in the neighborhood.
Police Capt. Patrick Burke, of the 5th District, told citizens they need to take an active role in combating crime.
Burke said officers are going door-to-door in the neighborhood to gather clues in the case and plan to set up checkpoints along major thoroughfares in the area.
"The police department alone can't do it, folks," Burke said. "We need you out there to be our eyes and ears. There's nothing else we care about more than your safety. But we need your help."
D.C. Council member Vincent B. Orange Sr. (D-Ward 5), who organized the meeting, said he hoped it would prompt witnesses to come forward.
"The main thing is to give the community the opportunity to connect with [the police] to air their concerns," Orange said. "Solving crime, it takes all of us to be involved."
Cedric Sims, 38, who owns a home near the site of the slaying, urged residents to come forward with information.
"I love living in Brookland," Sims said. "To me, it's the best-kept secret. Now when I come home, it's an eerie feeling to know that someone lost their life 150 feet from my house, basically on my doorstep. The cops can't do it by themselves. If you see something, you've got to speak up."