Regularly, a man driving a Buick Electra has been scouting a Southeast Washington housing project. He is looking, police say, for a man he intended to kill when he mistakenly killed Darrell Woodson, a 19-year-old who happened to be standing in a neighbor's front yard last Saturday when the big blue Buick cruised past.
Although the murder suspect routinely visits the Woodland Terrace Apartments in search of the man who beat him out of a dollar in a crap game, D.C. police say they have been unable to arrest him. He is known personally to several residents of the neighborhood.
"We have a warrant out for his arrest," said one police source at the city's 7th District station. "We just can't find him."
Last night, more than 100 residents of the Woodland, at 2300 Ainger Pl. SE, gathered in front of their homes to protest what one community activist called "gross inefficiency and neglect" by the city police department.
"This guy just keeps coming by threatening people," said Calvin Woodland, who lives in the complex. "He even sent a threat to the funeral home [Wednesday] talking about if he doesn't get the right guy, he's going to go after the next of kin [of young Woodson]."
Nowadays in the Woodland, where the temperature inside the apartments is higher than it is outside, mothers do not let their children roam the neighborhood, and neighbors rarely congregate on their front porches after dark.
"I'm so afraid," said Dorothy Cooper, mother of eight. "We have a new mayor and all, but this is still the forgotten city. In all my years, I have never felt so helpless."
Darrell Woodson, a graduate of the Washington Street Academy, was standing in Cooper's front yard last Saturday waiting to go to a concert at the Capital Centre with friends. As the blue Buick Electra eased up to him, Woodson paid no attention, according to witnesses. A man jumped from the car and fired three shots at Woodson. Two shots struck him in the chest. He died hours later at Greater Southeast Community Hospital.
Witnesses to the shooting told a reporter last night the name of the man they said was the gunman. Police declined to comment. "I know him," said Elaine Nesby, Woodson's mother. "He's a friend of my brother-in-law."
Nesby said she called police yesterday to ask why the suspect was still driving around. "They told me it was too difficult to catch up with him because he has three addresses," Nesby said.
The chain of events leading to Woodson's death began Friday night during a dice game behind 2371 Ainger pl. SE. According to a participant in the game, a fist fight followed a dispute over dice-throwing procedure. One dollar was in the pot at the time.
"It was three of us and two of them and we beat 'em up pretty bad," said Larry Steele, who believes he was the intended victim. "The guys left, then came back the next day with guns. It was just a crap game. They was just trying to be bad."
According to 7th District Lt. L. C. Hoefer, "These complaints are not that unusual in this kind of area. But we have as many, if not more, patrols over there as anywhere in 7-D."
Hoefer said he could not comment on the Woodson case except to say that it was under investigation.
From the residents' point of view, police are not giving them adequate protection because, as Woodland put it, "we are just poor blacks."
Woodland recalled last March when it was learned that a suspect in a murder at a Georgetown boutique lived in Woodland Terrace, "the cops swarmed us like flies out here.
"Then it was a white girl that got killed," he said. "Last week, a little girl stole some meat from the Safeway and the cops were out here for an hour."
Woodland said a meeting with city police officials has been scheduled to discuss grievances of residents.