There is unease in the 5600 block of First Street NE.
The first buds are beginning to show on the large oak trees that tower above spacious brick houses. The daffodils are in bloom, and the sound of children cheering as playmates round the bases in Fort Totten Park rivals the singing of song sparrows and mourning doves.
All would appear to be normal but the neighbourhood is still gripped by the incident.
Shawn Hunter, 11, has nightmares when he remembers what Carroll T. Fleet, the quiet, upstanding Navy ship designer who had lived next door, did on that cold, snowy day in February.
Some residents have made dark curtains for their picture windows which they quickly draw shut when the curiosity seekers drive through the block. The passerby point first to the parked Buick Electra with the bullet hole in the windshield, then toward the Williams' house, where two men are recuperating from wounds they received that day in February.
Then they stop and point at the Haneys' house, where three people and a dog were killed, then finally linger over to the Fleet residence itself, where an upstair light now burns throughout the night.
Feb. 20 was Carroll Fleet's 56th birthday and the trim and fit civil engineer seemed to feel good. He had shoveled snow from the sidewalk in front of an ailing neighbor's home between telephone calls from well-wishers with whom he made jokes.
The little neighborhood problems and squabbles that had irked him over the years apparently were far from his mind.
But his mood changed quickly when Fleet got in his car and headed south on First Street, where he encountered Betty Haney and her daughter Marla, with whom he had been feuding for years. The Haneys were driving north; snowdrifts allowed only one passable lane.
Both drivers held fast for several hostile moments.
"Where are the gentlemen around here?" Marla quipped sarcastically. Fleet shouted back. Although neighbors could not understand much of what he said they did remember hearing him yell "Enough is enough," as he backed his car to let the women pass.
Later, when the Haneys returned home, Fleet stepped from his house, bullets spilling from his pocket as he loaded his gun.
He walked across the street to where neighbors Leroy Williams Sr., a retired Pentagon security guard, Leroy Jr., 20, and Everette Davis, 19, were taking groceries from a car.
"Our friendship could have been a lot better if it hadn't been for you rascals and those dogs," Fleet told them.
Then Fleet leaned inside the car and thrust his handgun at them. "He held the gun with both hands and fired all six shots," Davis, a Navy volunteer who had been scheduled to leave for Biloxi, Miss., the following week, later recalled. "I thought it was a BB gun," he said.
Then, he remembers, a .38 caliber slug tore into his chin.
Fleet shot Leroy Williams Sr., 58, three times in the chest. Leroy Jr. was shot through the shoulder as he made a dive for cover.
Fleet ran to the Haneys' house next and reloaded on their front porch.
"Everybody's going to die today," he said.
Betty Haney was on the telephone to police when Fleet jumped through the living room window. He fell to his elbows with a crash of glass, cursing the Haneys as he rapid-fired from the floor. Haney, a 48-year-old government social worker, was killed instantly.
Fleet then staggered toward the stairs.
"'Come on, Marla, get into the closet,'" Kimberly Haney, 15, recalled crying to her sister. But Marla, 16, ran into another room.
"'No, Mr. Fleet, no,'" Kimberly heard Marla scream. He then shot her twice. Fleet then killed the Haney's dog.
Crouched in the corner of a closet, trembling while she prayed, Kimberly heard Fleet say, "'Well, I guess I'll kill myself.'"
Instant quiet is what visitors are struck by once they leave busy New Hampshire Avenue, Riggs Road or North Capital Street to enter First Street NE. Until the evening of Feb. 20, police would turn off their sirens if they had to pass through.
The large frame and brick houses sit back from the street. Lawns are generally well manicured. Vegetable gardens of collard greens, tomatoes and okra grow in backyards; flower beds of roses and daffodils blossom out front.
First Street is like many neighborhoods in this city that go unnoticed. In residence here are a historian, an agriculturist, a supervisor in the D.C. public school system, federal bureaucrats and several teachers.
There are stories of struggle behind almost every door, for many of these people are first generation black middle-class professionals.
The Fleets and the Haneys lived practically across the street from each other, but they represented social extremes on First Street.
Fleet was careful and immaculate, precise and exacting in the way he performed his civil engineer's duties for the Navy and in the way he ran his life. A perfectionist.
He was out in his yard with everyone else on the block on Saturdays, mowing his lawn. He would get down on his hands and knees and, using two fingers, pick out little clumps of crabgrass until, as one neighbor put it, "His yard looked like a smooth green carpet."
But he would not stop until he slowly worked his way around the edges with a small pair of lawn scissors and his property had that lush, perfectly boxed look.
Betty Haney was a GS 9 counselor in the city's families shelter in South-east Washington. She was struggling to keep her life together.
The Haney house was covered with gray shingles that had been marred with graffiti. Blue paint peeled from the sidings. The gutters were brown with rust. A loose shutter dangled from a upstairs window.
She was separated from Emanual Haney, a truck driver with whom she had moved onto First Street from a public housing project in far South-east Washington. She and daughter, Marla, both were overweight.
Raising Marla and Kimberly, going to school at night and work by day was a heavy burden for her. Neighbors considered Marla to be something of the neighborhood mischiefmaker. She was accused of buying marijuana cigarettes from the Good Humor man before neighbors banned him from First Street. Marla was enrolled in a special education class at the Lincoln Learning Center.
"It was a struggle for Betty after the separation," said Alexander Hardy, her brother. "She was strapped for money and it was difficult raising the children alone. But she was a courageous woman trying to make it. She never accepted handouts. Her life-long dream had been to achieve an education and get a middle-class status for herself and her children."
Over the years conflicts between Fleet and the Haneys began to build. Fleet liked order everywhere. Though he and his wife Clara, a psychologist, had no children, Fleet was free with his advice to neighbors on how they should raise theirs. There was too much permissiveness, he would tell them.
He was often going to Betty Haney about her daughter Marla. Fleet, neighbors recalled later, was always calm and cool in his complaints. Betty Haney, who would invariably side with her daughter, was not. She would yell at Fleet, call him names.
Their run-ins were the everyday, garden-variety squabbles that trouble many neighborhoods. The Haneys' pet dog, a collie, would soil Fleet's lawn. He would complain. Later, cherry bombs would be exploded in his yard.
When children hit their baseball into Fleet's yard, Marla would volunteer to retrieve it. Fleet would return the ball-but it would be cut up. Marla would curse him.
Once, the Haneys' dog got into a fight with one of Fleet's German shepherds. Marla broke the fight up with a baseball bat. Fleet responded by bringing his dog over to the Haneys' house to demand a "fair fight." The Haneys declined.
As relation grow progressively worse Fleet began taking pictures of the Haneys' dog to prove to police and dogcatchers that their collie was soiling his lawn. Marla would confront Fleet on his front porch, and threaten to beat him with her baseball bat.
Leroy Williams Sr. got entangled in the conflict when Fleet threatened Leroy Jr. for allegedly tossing beer cans into his backyard Leroy Williams Sr. warned Fleet not to chase children with his dogs and to leave Leroy Jr. alone.
Fleet began to cry, "But they won't leave me alone."
Robert Hunter, who lived next door to Fleet, remembered that a few months ago Fleet asked him for advice. "He wanted to know what I would do if those things were happening to me. I told him not to worry. Their day would come.
While Fleet represented the neighborhood ideal of hard work and order, many neighbors sided with the Haneys.
"He tried to be so high," one neighbor said of Fleet. "Just because he did everything just so, he expected everybody to be just so. He was usually right.But what was needed was more understanding rather than talking down at people or always threatening to call the law."
Still neighbors are troubled, and baffled, by the killings.Those acquainted with Fleet search for answers in his past, but find no clues.
"We always knew him to be mild-mannered and disciplined," said Charles Fleet, an uncle who grew up with Fleet.
After the incident, neighbors realized how little they knew about him.
Emily Bullock, who lived next door to Fleet since 1962, recalled peering through her kitchen window last summer and seeing Fleet give okra seeds to her granddaughter.
"It was the first time in 17 years that he had been in our yard. I said to myself, 'This is a breakthrough.' I didn't even know his first name," she said.
Another neighbor who lived a few doors from Fleet did not learn until the day of the funeral that Fleet was black like himself-not white as he had thought for nearly two decades.
Another neighbor, Noble Hampton, a retired teacher, said the confusion over Fleet's race and taunts-in later years chiefly from Maria Haney who was fond of calling Fleet a "yellow freak" during their run-ins - had deeply troubled him.
"He would say it burned him up," Hampton said. "But I'd say, 'Don't let it get you down' because I'd been called worse" by whites.
The problem had dogged Fleet as a child growing up in Georgetown in the 1920s and 1930s. His classmates at Francis Junior High School often teased him about it, calling him "Imitation of Life," referring to the movie about a black trying to pass for white.
His status as a track star at Francis and at Armstrong High gave him a shield against the taunts, classmates remember.
Fleet went into the Navy after Armstrong and began studying marine engineering. After his discharge he enrolled at Howard University's School of Engineering, and graduated in 1959. Later he went to work for the Department of the Navy, rising to GS 1j status with responsibility as section supervisor in the Navy ship specifications branch, which prepares blueprints for ships. There is no margin for error. One stray mark on a 1,700 page order can result in a multimillion-dollar suit against the Navy. His colleagues said Fleet was conscientious and skilled.
"The mind is a complicated thing," Robert Hunter said. "There's no way to tell what a man's threshold is. And if you don't know and keep pushing, well. . .something's bound to happen. He had a lot pent up inside. He wasn't like me. See, when Marla or some of her boy friends would smart-mouth I'd say 'Look, I can be just as crazy as you.' I didn't have any more trouble."
Roy Yarborough, a historian who moved onto First Street several months ago, said he had come here from Berkeley to study blacks. "I came here to study the Negro," said Yarborough, where mother was Jewish and father black. "This city is great for that.
"When I came here, I found this massive Negro middle class. I was shocked. They were identical to their white counterparts. The only thing is that the Negro is . . . noticeably frustrated.
"They thought they had achieved the American dream-house, two cars, the dog. So just when they settle back, high inflation hits. Movement stops. Even the city gets smaller and smaller. . ."
"I'm afraid we're going to see more of this kind of [violent] as frustration mounts. The more people get, the more they want. I see no way to stop it."
The elderly relative with whom Yarborough lives interrupted, "All Mr. Fleet wanted was peace." CAPTION: Picture 1, Carrol, T. Fleet home, left, is at 5608 First St. NE; Picture 2, at right are Williams house at 5609, left, and Haney house at 5607. Photos by Gerald Martineau-The Washington Post; Illustration, Diagram in center shows where shootings of Feb. 20 occurred. The Washington Post