Oxon Hill neighbors of the man charged in yesterday's shotgun slaying in Columbia Heights described a troubled man whose behavior often was bizarre and erratic.
James E. Swann Jr., 29, who had lived with a relative in the Oxon Hill Village Apartments for much of last year, was charged with murder after three shootings yesterday in one of the Northwest Washington neighborhoods that have been terrorized by a dozen shotgun attacks since Feb. 23.
Although Swann has not been charged in any of the previous shotgun attacks, Inspector William O. Ritchie Jr. said, "We feel very confident that this may be the individual responsible" for the other assaults.
Swann's address was listed as an apartment complex in Iselin, N.J., but Ritchie said he used to work as a security guard in this area. Troy Swann, 17, a nephew, said James Swann came here from New Jersey early last year and lived in an apartment in the 2200 block of Alice Avenue with him and his mother, Monica. Monica Swann is James Swann's sister, the nephew said.
The nephew said Swann stayed in the ground floor apartment until moving out late last year or early this year.
Neighbors recalled that Swann paced rapidly outside the apartment building, shouted "I'll get you!" at squirrels and laughed aloud in nearby woods while shooting arrows from a bow.
He said so little that "I thought he was mute," said Brandon Jackson.
Truman Martin, 22, said Swann sometimes stood in front of his parked car, wearing a security guard uniform, spinning a nightstick in his hand with the dexterity of a baton twirler. Martin said that once, he and his friends, who used to watch, were told by Swann "how crime doesn't pay, that he'd take care of us if we didn't get out of here."
"He got right in my face, and I told the dude, 'Man get out of my face,' " Martin said. He said Swann resumed twirling the nightstick and repeated his warnings against crime.
"He used to be crazy, man," said Jerry Hall, another neighbor, who said Swann sometimes stood at his apartment window with a BB gun.
Swann was driving a 1993 Toyota Tercel with a makeshift paper license plate attached to it when he was arrested, a D.C. police official said. But under the paper tag was a New Jersey plate.
According to New Jersey license information obtained from police sources, the plate is registered to Swann in Iselin, which is in Woodbridge Township.
The address on Swann's driver's license is that of Green Hollow, a large and predominantly middle-class apartment complex, said Woodbridge police Lt. Donald Protz. He said the Green Hollow apartment complex is five or six years old and "a cross section of everybody and every kind of job description."
Protz said that according to his department's records, township police have no record of having contact with Swann.
Police officials in Washington would not comment on whether Swann had any criminal record.
Police initially were unable to confirm Swann's identity.
His refusal would not have prevented police and the U.S. attorney's office from charging and prosecuting him, however, an official said. In fact, Swann initially was charged as "John Doe."
Minutes before Swann was stopped and arrested, three people in Columbia Heights were targeted by a shotgun-wielding assailant in a car, police said. Two intended victims ducked and escaped harm, but 61-year-old Nello Hughes, walking on 13th Street NW, was killed.
Officials said prosecutors would present evidence to a grand jury about the two nonfatal shootings yesterday, in which he was not charged. They also will ask witnesses to the earlier shootings to pick Swann out of a lineup.
A law enforcement source said police believe enough evidence exists to persuade a judge to order Swann held without bond when he makes his initial appearance in D.C. Superior Court, probably today. That evidence includes the man's physical appearance, his failure to identify himself, the type of car he was driving and the seized shotgun, the source said.
Because "there's no way in hell that a judge is going to let this guy go," the source said, detectives can continue gathering and analyzing evidence in the other attacks before deciding whether additional charges will be filed.
After Swann was arrested yesterday, detectives drove him through area streets for more than an hour, sources said. They escorted him past witnesses to yesterday's shootings, who positively identified him, one high-ranking official said.
Swann refused to cooperate or answer questions, sources said.
A plumbing supply company employee who witnessed yesterday's arrest in the 900 block of Florida Avenue NW said the suspect appeared calm. "If he was scared, he covered it pretty well," the man said. "Just another day being busted by the police, is how he acted."
Staff writers Gabriel Escobar, Marcia Slacum Greene, Bill Miller, Santiago O'Donnell and Debbi Wilgoren and special correspondent Rachel E. Stassen-Berger in New Jersey contributed to this report.
A suspect was arrested yesterday after three people were attacked with a shotgun. One man was killed and two escaped injury after being shot at about 1 p.m. A look at how the situation developed and the path the suspect took in Northwest Washington, according to witnesses and police:
1. Spring Place: Man shot at but not hit while washing his car shortly before 1 p.m. Suspect headed toward Spring Road.
2. Holmead Place: As car headed south, suspect shot at a man on a bicycle but missed.
3. 13th Street: After two left turns, witnesses said, he shot and killed a man here about 1 p.m.
4. Suspect is reportedly spotted heading south on Sherman Ave.
5. Florida Avenue: Suspect made his way to here where he was arrested about 1:10 p.m.