An 18-year-old neighbor was charged yesterday in the killing last week of a woman struck by a stray bullet in Southeast Washington.
Russell Mitchell was arrested about 9:30 a.m. at his apartment, which is in the same block where Dorine Fostion, 46, was slain Aug. 17. Mitchell is the grandson of former D.C. Council member Sandy Allen.
D.C. police said they believe that Mitchell was part of a group that opened fire outside Fostion's building. Fostion was watching television about 10:30 p.m. in her fourth-floor apartment when a bullet crashed through her windowsill and struck her in the side. She died later at a hospital.
Police officials said that as many as eight people might have participated in the shooting and that the shooters, rather than targeting anyone in particular, probably were trying to send a message to people living in the building, in the 2700 block of Robinson Place.
Capt. C.V. Morris said the killing probably stemmed from a feud involving groups of young men who live in the 2700 and 2800 blocks of Robinson Place, a notoriously violent neighborhood of apartment complexes.
Just hours before Fostion was slain, a 36-year-old man was shot and wounded outside her building.
Detectives also are investigating whether two slayings several months ago in the 2800 block of Robinson Place are connected to Fostion's death. Arrests have been made in those cases.
"We're looking at those murders to see if there is any retaliation or there was some kind of dispute that might have stemmed from both murders," Morris said at a news conference.
Morris said eyewitnesses identified Mitchell as having participated in the shooting, but police could not say whether he fired the fatal shot.
Mitchell, who was questioned yesterday by detectives, was charged with second-degree murder because police could not prove he intended to kill Fostion, Morris said.
Allen said she was shocked by her grandson's arrest.
"I'm just a distraught grandmother," said Allen, who represented Ward 8 until she lost her reelection bid in the Democratic primary last year. "I'm shocked. To me, he was the most wonderful grandson in the world. He would clean my house twice a week and do anything I asked him to do. . . . We were very close."
Yvonne Cooper, Mitchell's godmother, described the young man as "an awesome kid."
He was "just an ordinary teenager, loving, responsible, and he doted on his parents," Cooper said.
Mitchell was a senior at Ballou Senior High School who had plans to go to college, Cooper said.
One neighbor, who declined to provide her name because she feared retaliation for speaking out, said she often rode the bus with Mitchell and saw him in the neighborhood frequently.
"He was a nice kid. He wasn't out here doing anything bad," the neighbor said. "He played basketball and football out here with the kids."
Fostion's daughter, Ryan Fostion, said that since the shooting, she has been unable to stay in the apartment, which she shared with her two children and her mother.
She was in the next room last week when she heard gunfire and then her mother cry out for help. No one else was injured, although a bullet pierced the window of another apartment and nearly struck a woman and her infant, police said.
"I'm very happy with all the support from the community, the police department and everybody else," said Fostion, 24.
Fostion said she was surprised but not shocked that the suspect is related to a former council member.
"It doesn't matter who you are. There is violence everywhere," she said.
She and her brother, Robert Foster, 30, said they didn't know Mitchell but might recognize him from the neighborhood if they were to see his photograph.
"I don't know who he is," Foster said. "I'm just glad they caught him."
Another neighbor, who also declined to give her name, said violence in the area is so common that her young son is afraid to come home from school. She said she wasn't surprised that a resident was killed by a stray bullet.
"It goes on all the time in this neighborhood -- the shootings, randomly, happen all the time," she said.
A funeral for Dorine Fostion is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at Holy Christian Missionary Baptist Church for All People at 5110 Nannie Helen Burroughs Ave. NE.