A fatal shooting at a halfway house for federal prisoners has outraged neighbors who have been fighting for the last two years to close the Northeast Washington facility.
For residents, the overriding issue has been security, and the slaying late June 29 of a halfway house resident, 33-year-old Cleveland McKinney Jr., has prompted neighbors to increase their efforts.
"We are all kind of livid in the community. The security at that facility is breached," said Regina James, an advisory neighborhood commissioner. "They don't care about the community as a whole. They don't even care about securing their own residents."
McKinney was shot by an unknown assailant in a meeting room of the residence, in the 2200 block of Adams Place NE. The halfway house, called Bannum Place, is run by Bannum Inc., a Florida-based company that has a contract with the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Federal officials inspected the facility the day after the shooting and are reviewing what happened.
James said she plans to continue a letter-writing campaign and will call on government officials to force the closure of the halfway house. The residence is meant to ease the return of prisoners to society.
District Council member Vincent B. Orange Sr. (D-Ward 5), a longtime opponent of the decision to put the halfway house in the Woodbridge neighborhood, said he will keep urging the city to shut it down "before something else happens."
Bannum opened the facility in May 2003. Several months later, the city's zoning board sided with the community and voted to revoke the building's permit. In April this year, the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs voted to revoke Bannum's occupancy certificate. But the halfway house remained open, with Bannum fighting the issue in court.
Last week, the city gave Bannum 45 days to vacate, according to Vincent Morris, a spokesman for Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D).
Bannum officials have not returned calls seeking comment on the recent developments.
Neighbors and activists said they do not understand why the facility, which is at a dead end on Adams Place, is still operating. They warned that the city could be held responsible if more trouble occurs.
"They are not licensed; they are running this facility illegally," asserted Donald M. Temple, who is representing the neighborhood activists. "What more do they need to get them to follow the law? They need another shooting? A fire? Those people that work and live there, they are victims and they potentially have claims against the city for allowing them to live there where the certificate of occupancy has been revoked."
The facility has about 80 residents and provides counseling and work opportunities, according to court papers filed by Bannum. The halfway house is just off New York Avenue, near a few businesses and a day-care facility for mentally disabled adults.
"I see the guys walking all the time, but we haven't had any problems with them," said Dante Ribulotta, owner of a business near the halfway house. "But we try not to be here at night."
Police said they are investigating the possibility that McKinney was slain by a resident or former resident of Bannum Place. McKinney, who had served time in federal prison for armed robbery and handgun convictions, was seen arguing with someone the day before the shooting, police said. The gunman apparently got into the building through a door that normally could not be opened from the outside, police said.
Police Cmdr. Jennifer Greene, of the 5th District, said the area around the halfway house is "generally pretty quiet" in terms of crime. However, when a nearby nightclub holds an event, there is often a spike in car-stealing or thefts from vehicles, Greene said. She said she suspected that some of the residents of the halfway house may be responsible.
The large concentration of men with criminal backgrounds continues to worry neighbors.
Joan Hurley, who runs the Ionia Whipper Home, a residential facility for neglected girls a few blocks from Bannum Place, lamented the presence of the halfway house in the community.
"I'm surprised that nothing has happened before now," she said. "My fear is for my little girls and the older people in the community."
Staff writer Del Quentin Wilber contributed to this report.