A 16-year-old was fatally shot Wednesday night in the Benning Ridge neighborhood of Southeast Washington — the sixth youth killed this year in the District and the second this week.
“He was a joyful energized bunny,” said the teen’s mother, 37-year-old Dallas Coleman. “You couldn’t get him to sit down. Even when everyone else was sad, he was the life of the party. If he saw you in a bad mood, he was coming on joke time.”
D.C. police Chief Robert J. Contee III said it appears the 16-year-old was in a group that was targeted, but detectives do not know why. No arrest has been made. A man also was shot in the incident, and suffered an injury police described as not life threatening.
The youth was the city’s 92nd homicide victim this year, a nearly 14 percent increase over this time in 2021.
The violence has shaken District residents and thrust the debate over police and public safety to the forefront of the mayoral race, with a primary days away. On Monday, 17-year-old Xavier Spruill was fatally shot while in a vehicle on Wheeler Road in Southeast. Three 16-year-olds were killed in February, March and May, and a 15-year-old was slain in March.
On Thursday, Dallas Coleman sat on the couch of her home in Benning Ridge, talking about her slain son. She said he is survived by five siblings and his girlfriend, who is eight months pregnant with a girl they named Nevaeh, the backward spelling of heaven.
One wall of the family home is decorated with family photos, including one of the teen, with the words: “When life is beginning, love never ends.”
His mother said Deandre played youth league football and basketball. In middle school, she said, he attended Monument Academy Public Charter, a boarding school in Northeast Washington.
Most recently, Dallas Coleman said her son went to the Silver Spring campus of the Pathways Schools, for students who struggle in traditional classrooms. Officials at the school did not return calls asking to discuss the teen.
His mother said he had been recently arrested and charged with having a handgun, a case that was pending in the District’s juvenile court system at the time of his death.
Dallas Coleman said she does not believe that played a role in his shooting. But she criticized officials supervising Deandre while his case was pending, saying they were too lenient. She also said Contee needs to put more officers on the streets to restore order.
“He needs to do his job as the chief,” she said. “He’s not stopping the crimes.”
Contee said his department has made efforts to hire more officers and get guns off the streets.
“That’s what I’m doing, doing my job,” he said.
Because her son’s case had not yet been adjudicated, his supervision fell to the D.C. Superior Court’s Family Court Social Services Division, the juvenile equivalent of a probation agency. Dallas Coleman said she reached out to her son’s supervising agent and wanted her son put under GPS monitoring to keep him home. She said she was told that could only be done if Deandre was deemed a danger to the community.
“If a mother reaches out telling you that she needs help, why did you have to wait?” Dallas Coleman said. “Why does he have to be a danger to society? It doesn’t make sense.”
Juvenile records are sealed and a spokesman for the D.C. Superior Court, Doug Buchanan, said he could not respond to questions about a specific person.
In 2003, the Coleman family faced another tragedy when Dallas Coleman’s sister, Shameka Fludd, was killed in a domestic shooting in Columbia, Md.