A single, apparently unintentional gunshot ended a 14-year-old boy's life Friday night in Northeast Washington, and early yesterday, a friend of the teenager surrendered to D.C. police and was charged with manslaughter.
Investigators had been looking for James E. Williams, 18, since soon after the shooting, which left Dominic Page dead and a District neighborhood devastated.
It was Williams, police said, who was holding the small-caliber gun when it went off about 8:30 p.m. as the two teenagers were hanging out with other friends in the alley behind the 500 block of 59th Street NE.
A shot pierced Dominic's chest, and he died a short time later at Prince George's Hospital Center, police said. Dominic had been staying at his grandmother's house about three blocks away in the 5600 block of Eads Street NE.
Amid the sound of sirens, Dominic's mother, Nikisha, 28, pulled up to the block, slowing to see what was going on, she said. Only when a neighbor rushed to her car did she learn that her son had been shot.
He was, she said yesterday, "a joyful kid."
As his mother and other relatives sat and mourned on the porch of his grandmother's house, Dominic's good deeds were all around them. In the yard were several bikes, in various states of repair, that he was fixing for friends. In the shade lounged two cats, Precious and Charlie, strays that Dominic had brought home.
"Basically, he was just a sweet kid," said Delores Taylor, 60, his grandmother. "I'd give my life just to hear him say one more time, 'Grandma, what's there to eat?' He was the love of my life."
Dominic was a few weeks from starting high school in Prince George's County, where his mother lives, and fresh from a beach trip with his father. He was spending part of the summer with his grandmother in the Northeast Washington neighborhood, known as Northeast Boundary.
About midnight Friday, Williams turned up several miles away, at the 1st Police District station in Southwest Washington, Lt. Robert Glover said yesterday.
"We're working off the premise that it was an accident," Glover said during a briefing outside the violent crimes branch in Southeast Washington. "We don't believe it to have been an intentional act."
But under the law, a person can be charged with manslaughter for causing injuries that led to someone else's death, even if the act was unintentional.
"The defendant had a handgun," Glover said. "The handgun discharged."
Even if the shooting was not intentional, that is not to say it was not preventable, Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said yesterday. "It just shows that guns are dangerous not just in the hands of criminals, but in the hands of people who don't know how to handle them," he said.
In the District, only law enforcement officers are allowed to carry guns, and Ramsey and other local leaders have condemned efforts in Congress to roll back the city's strict gun laws.
In spite of the prohibition, guns and gun violence remain a problem for the city, which borders states with far looser gun laws. The gun that took Dominic's life was part of that problem, Ramsey said. "If they were not playing with it or passing it around, that boy would be alive today," he said.
Sixth District Cmdr. Robin Hoey said the supply of guns defies the efforts to choke it off.
"We're recovering guns, a lot of guns, but it just seems they're still getting in the hands of youth," Hoey said.
At the site of the shooting, friends and relatives gathered yesterday, many weeping, around a shrine of stuffed animals, balloons, cookies, candy and a piece of cardboard reading "RIP" and pinned to a chain-link fence.
Next to the grandmother's house, another teddy bear along the sidewalk commemorated the death of an 18-year-old friend of Dominic's who was shot a few months ago.