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D.C. police arrest 18-year-old in fatal shooting at Days Inn

Gerald Thomas is accused of killing Dasha Cleary and injuring four others at the hotel in Northwest D.C.

D.C. Police Chief Robert J. Contee III meets with residents in January outside of the Days Inn where five people were shot, one fatally. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)
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An 18-year-old who allegedly opened fire inside a Days Inn in Northwest D.C. has been charged with second-degree murder of a 20-year-old Maryland woman.

Gerald Thomas, of Temple Hills, Md., appeared in D.C. Superior Court on Saturday, pleading not guilty in the death of Dasha Cleary.

Standing before Judge Laura Cordero in white sneakers and dark clothing, Thomas listened as his lawyer argued that there wasn’t enough evidence to prove that he hadn’t acted in self-defense. His aunt and mother, seated at the back of the courtroom, watched as the judge decided to detain him, pending his preliminary hearing.

Five people shot, one fatally, at hotel in Northwest Washington

In the charging documents, police outlined how a surprise birthday party on the fifth floor of the hotel — a place neighbors had complained about for attracting crime — had devolved into violence on Jan. 27, leaving four people injured and Cleary dead.

On that early Thursday morning, the celebration in Room 505 had drawn a dozen people, who were drinking and smoking in a room with two queen beds, according to court documents. On the bed farthest from the door, Cleary was dancing to loud music, witnesses said in the charging documents.

Police said Thomas’ girlfriend was in attendance, as was her ex-boyfriend. As she put on makeup in the hotel bathroom with two friends, Thomas repeatedly called her, witnesses told police. Thomas thought she was cheating on him, so he told her to get her stuff and leave, the charging documents said.

Eventually, Thomas went to the Days Inn and persuaded a guest to swipe him into the hotel and onto the elevator, the charging documents said. When he tried to get into the hotel room to see his girlfriend, the partygoers attempted to close the door on him. Then, police said, Thomas pointed a gun into the room and started shooting.

Someone within the room returned fire, court documents said, though no additional arrests have been made.

When police arrived at the hotel around 3:30 a.m., they found a trail of blood leading out of Room 505, down a staircase, and along the hotel’s exterior. Thirty-two bullets from two different guns were gathered at the scene, along with a handgun in the parking lot.

Thomas’ girlfriend was found in the lobby with life-threatening wounds to her stomach and back. A second woman had been shot in the leg.

In Room 505, blood was splattered on the walls, the floor and the bedspreads. Cleary — whom family described as a “caretaker by nature” — was found on one of the queen-size beds. She was pronounced dead hours later at Washington Hospital Center.

Two other men later appeared at a local hospital, suffering from gunshot wounds to the leg and hand.

At 3:31 a.m., Thomas’ girlfriend had called a relative to say she’d been shot, according to the charging documents. The relative then called Thomas to ask what had happened.

In a series of text messages included in the charging documents, Thomas said he had been talking to his girlfriend at the hotel room when someone else started firing a gun.

In an ensuing text message conversation with the relative, Thomas asked if the woman was okay and what hospital she’d been taken to. The relative told him she was in surgery for a gunshot wound to the stomach.

“Im going to jail,” Thomas texted her. “ … Im so so so sorry this is happening they tried to kill me.” In the next message: “Ma like I really apologize im so hurt rn”

His next court appearance is scheduled for March 3.