Two Washington women were killed yesterday when a man opened fire with a shotgun as they slept inside a Columbia Heights row house, then dragged one of his victims from the building, doused her with a flammable liquid and set her afire in view of neighbors and passersby on busy 13th Street NW, D.C. police and witnesses said.
As the assault continued in the front yard, the women's mother -- bleeding from a wound in the side -- ran from the house and along the street screaming, "Call the police. He's killing my family, he's burning my daughter."
The man was arrested without a struggle a short time later as he headed back into the house, police said.
They said the man was wearing a bulletproof vest and apparently had planned to barricade himself in a second-floor apartment where police found "a bag of bullets" alongside a chair positioned at the front window.
Police said Francois Robert Bourgeau, 48, of 3109 Bunker Hill Rd., Mount Rainier, the owner of the row house, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder. He was being held last night without bond.
The attack apparently grew out of a longstanding dispute over back rent, according to D.C. police, and came three days after one of the victims had summoned officers to the apartment at 3404 13th St. NW when her landlord arrived there demanding his money. Bourgeau was charged with unlawful entry in that incident, police said.
The apartment where the shooting occurred yesterday had been the residence of the dead women's grandmother, Selena Toye, 84, who was found stabbed to death in her room at the Washington Hospital Center last Oct. 14.
Toye's grandson, Cardell Shelton, who lived with Toye, was charged with murder in the widely publicized incident, which police have described as an apparent mercy killing.
Officials said there was no connection between Toye's death and yesterday's slayings.
Police said Darrenna Shelton, 25, who lived at the 13th Street address, was pronounced dead as she lay in the front yard.
Officials said it was unclear if she died of a single gunshot wound to the abdomen or from being set afire.
Her sister, Sabrina, 28, of 533 16th St. NE, died of gunshot wounds in the chest and abdomen at the Washington Hospital Center about four hours after the incident. The women's mother, Gloria Shelton, 54, of 529 16th St. NE, was grazed in the side during the shooting spree. She was treated at the hospital and released last night.
Three children, including an 8-year-old girl and a 3-year-old boy who neighbors said were Darrenna Shelton's children, were in the house during the attack but were not wounded, police said.
Police said the assailant entered the apartment about 3:15 p.m., and apparently went first to a back bedroom and shot Darrenna and Sabrina Shelton as they were napping with the three children.
He then went to the living room, where Gloria Shelton was sleeping on a sofa, and fired one shot at her, police said.
The man then returned to the bedroom and dragged the gravely wounded Darrenna Shelton down a long hallway to the front door and out into the concrete front yard, police said.
Once outside, he fired two shots into the front window of the apartment, police said. Then he doused Darrenna Shelton with a flammable liquid that he had with him and set her afire, police said.
Several witnesses reported that the assailant used a flare-like device to start the blaze. Police said last night they were uncertain what liquid was poured on the woman, or what was used to ignite it.
Tanya Burton, 21, a neighborhood resident,said she was watching from a window as her children played in the front yard of a house in the 1200 block of Park Road when she heard the shots ring out.
"I ran . . . to get the kids inside and the guy was out with a shotgun yelling, 'Everybody get back, get back, get back.
Another neighbor, Earlene Haynes, 20, said, "I heard the shots and I saw the mother [Gloria Shelton] running down 13th Street. She was screaming, 'Please somebody help me, he's killing my kids. Call the police, he's killing my family, he's burning my daughter,' " Haynes said.
Shelton fled south on 13th Street to Park Road, where she ran into Haynes' arms. The two women then ran along Park Road and called to a police officer who was on patrol nearby.
Police said that when the officer arrived at the scene, the assailant was headed back toward the house, in what Deputy Chief James P. Shugart called a planned "barricade situation."
When the officer approached, officials said, the man put down the gun and allowed himself to be taken into custody.
Sylvia Barnes, Darrenna Shelton's roommate since February, said she had left the apartment minutes before the attack to go to the corner grocery store. As she was returning, she said, she heard shots and then came upon her roommate's body. The woman's back had been blown out, Barnes said.
Fearing that the assailant might recognize her, Barnes said she ran from the scene.
She said Bourgeau had gone to the apartment on Monday, demanding that Darrenna Shelton move. "She had everything ready to move. She had an apartment in Northeast and she had already put the money on it," Barnes said. "He wouldn't take the rent. He just wanted her out."
Police sources said last night that the dispute involved about six months back rent.
Barnes said the rent on the apartment where she and Darrenna Shelton lived was $280 a month. She said she had paid her share of the rent to Shelton but did not know if any of that money had been sent to the landlord.
Several neighbors of the 13th Street address said last night that Bourgeau was well known in the neighborhood, where he owns the building at 3406 13th St. NW as well as the one at 3404.
"He would be around a lot," said Mary Bridgers, a neighbor.
Bourgeau also rented out a portion of the Mount Rainier house where he lived. A tenant there last night described Bourgeau, a native Haitian, as a large man who loved classical music.
She said he had always treated her kindly and expressed surprise that he had been charged with two killings.
"I was once caught in a snowstorm and my car got stuck . . . . He dropped what he was doing and he came and got me," the woman said . . . . "He's never been violent."
Bridgers said Selena Toye, Darrenna Shelton's grandmother, was a longtime resident of the building where the slayings took place and had lived there before Bourgeau purchased it. Darrenna and Cardell Shelton, a cousin, had moved into the apartment before Toye entered the hospital last July 3. She was being treated for a disease affecting the heart muscle when she was fatally stabbed with a butcher knife.
Immediately after the incident, Cardell Shelton was freed to await trial.
Last night, boxes and furniture were stacked near the door of the blood-splattered apartment. In the bedroom, there was blood on one sheet and a small burn hole in it.
On the front door of the apartment where the victims lived, a sign was hanging on the door. It was the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, beginning: "Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace . . . " Neighbors said it had been there as long as they could remember.