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Woman accused of shooting husband at D.C. hotel fired in self-defense, lawyer says

Defense attorneys argued Shanteari Weems was in fear for her life after accusing her husband, an ex-Baltimore police officer, of child sexual abuse

D.C. Superior Court (Keith L. Alexander/The Washington Post)

The owner of a day-care center accused of shooting her husband in a luxury Washington hotel after confronting him about child sex abuse allegations fired in self-defense, her attorney said Friday in a hearing where she was ordered to remain jailed pending trial.

It was an argument quickly challenged by prosecutors, who say the woman, Shanteari Weems, 50, had prepared for the shooting in advance and even sketched out plans in a notebook declaring that she intended to seek “justice.”

In ordering Weems to remain detained, D.C. Superior Court Magistrate Judge Sherry Trafford said she had “great concerns” about the “dangerousness” of Weems and her ability to make decisions “rationally” following the July 21 shooting at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Southwest Washington.

During the nearly two-hour preliminary hearing, Tony Garcia, Weems’s attorney, argued that his client was confronted by the mother of one of the children at Lil Kids Kastle day care earlier that day alleging Weems’s husband, James S. Weems Jr., had sexually assaulted her child.

Garcia said his client drove from Baltimore County to Washington to confront her husband, a former Baltimore police officer who was working private security for the National Urban League’s convention in the city, about the allegations. Shanteari Weems took her licensed handgun for protection knowing her husband also had a licensed handgun, her attorney said. Garcia said when she arrived at Room 853, she raised the allegations before her husband became aggressive. In fear, she shot him twice, in the neck and in his left thigh, Garcia said.

Man shot over child molestation allegations is charged with sex abuse

“My client indicated that this man, who she knew to be armed, made a physical advance toward her,” Garcia said. “It is our position that she told the officers she was scared.”

Garcia said his client was distraught by the allegations against her husband.

“She wanted justice for these kids,” Garcia said. “She wanted him to face justice. Her duty was to these single fathers and mothers.”

But Assistant U.S. Attorney LaVater Massie-Banks argued Shanteari Weems planned in advance to hurt her husband and outlined details in a notebook that was found in the hotel room.

“Yes, her husband was accused of molesting children and could be why this event occurred,” Massie-Banks said.

Then, picking up a copy of the notebook, the prosecutor continued: “The first line on the note is, ‘I’m on my way to shoot James. I don’t intend to kill him. I intend to paralyze him.’ And that is exactly what happened. He was shot in his neck and his leg.”

Shanteari Weems is charged with aggravated assault while armed and assault with a dangerous weapon.

On Tuesday, Baltimore County police said they charged James Weems with 13 sex crimes in the abuse of “at least three children” at Lil Kidz Kastle. On Wednesday, Weems, who was released from a local Washington hospital, appeared in D.C. Superior Court and was ordered to stay in a D.C. jail infirmary until officials transport him to Baltimore County. Massie-Banks said county officials plan to retrieve Weems on Monday.

During the hearing, D.C. Detective Andrew Gong testified that when he interviewed Shanteari Weems after the shooting, she never said she was afraid or acted in self-defense following confronting her husband. Gong said she seemed “confused.”

The shooting, at around 7:40 p.m. last week, created a frenzy for hotel guests and staff, prompting the evacuation of guests.

Gong testified that when police arrived at the hotel room, they had difficulty getting inside the room because it was barricaded from the inside. Gong testified police could hear Shanteari Weems inside the room telling them “everything was fine” and that “nothing was going on.”

Once the officers got inside, Gong said police saw blood on the floor of the hallway and bathroom. Police also noticed a handgun in a handbag that had been removed from a holster. They also found another gun inside a lockbox in the hotel room.

Gong said James Weems told police he was shot after “having an argument about a situation in Maryland.” Gong said the husband never gave details of the argument.

Gong testified Shanteari Weems told him she came to Washington often in the past, but had never brought her gun with her until that day. Shanteari Weems, who worked as a correctional officer before opening the day-care center, also told the detective that she and her husband never had any prior domestic situations and police were never called to their residence. Gong said she never said her husband threatened her or that she was fearful of him.

The detective then read another line from Shanteari Weems’s notebook in which she wrote, “I intend to get justice.”

It was that line that the judge highlighted during her ruling.

“He has the same rights she has,” Trafford said. “He is presumed innocent until proven guilty. She chose to confront him for what she believes he has done. And in the course of that and ended up shooting him.”

The next hearing is scheduled for Aug. 9.

After the judge issued her ruling, about a half-dozen supporters of Shanteari Weems watching the hearing on video began yelling at the judge, “Free Ms. Weems” and “What if these were your grandkids?” Another yelled, “No justice was served here. You should be ashamed of yourself.”

The comments from the viewers continued for several minutes before the feed to the courtroom was abruptly shut down.