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At least three dozen have been shot in D.C. since Wednesday

Six people were shot Monday in Northeast D.C., capping a particularly violent period in the city

D.C. Police Chief Robert J. Contee III speaks to reporters on Aug. 1 after six people were shot, one fatally, outside an apartment complex in the Kingman Park neighborhood of Northeast Washington. (Jasmine Hilton/The Washington Post)
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The mass shooting that killed one man and wounded five others outside an apartment complex in Northeast Washington on Monday capped an especially violent six-day period in D.C., raising fears among some residents and sparking renewed calls from city leaders for action.

In all, at least three dozen people have been struck by gunfire since July 27, and six have been killed, according to police. Twice in Southeast Washington last week, police said assailants armed with assault-style rifles sprayed more than 90 bullets into parking lots, in one instance killing two men. Over the weekend, a police officer fatally shot a man — after a shooting moments earlier injured two people in Northwest Washington.

In the mass shooting, police said someone opened fire into a large crowd gathered outside the Azeeze Bates apartments at 15th and F streets NE, striking six men. Residents said they were unnerved by the violence, as officials decried those involved and promised to do more.

“Shootings, gunshots, people dead,” said 69-year-old Tyrone Washington, who has lived in the area all his life. “It’s crazy.”

D.C. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), who chairs the public safety committee and until recently represented the Kingman Park area, said officials are adopting a “whole of government” approach to confronting crime, instead of relying totally on police.

But, the lawmaker said, “I don’t think you’ll find anybody who feels things are moving fast enough. … Every aspect of government should feel a sense of urgency around this.”

1 dead, 5 wounded in Northeast D.C. shooting

D.C. Police Chief Robert J. Contee III told reporters at the scene of the shooting that the city has invested in ways to “stem the tide of violence,” but some people “have just lost their sense of humanity.”

Homicides in D.C. now stand at 127, up 11 percent over this time last year, according to the city’s official count on Tuesday. But assaults with dangerous weapons, which include shootings, are down 8 percent, even with the unusually high number this past week.

Police have released few details of Monday’s mass shooting and have made no arrests. They identified the man who died as Lance Melvin, 24. He lived in Southeast Washington, but public records show his family once lived in the area where he died. Efforts to reach relatives were not successful. Police said the others did not have life-threatening injuries.

City officials suggested some blame fell on the Azeeze Bates apartment complex, with Contee, Allen and an advisory neighborhood commissioner accusing the complex owners of failing to take proper security measures.

Contee said, “I’m told there is some type of private security, or firm, that is responsible for this property. I have not seen it yet.”

Allen said he met with residents and apartment representatives three weeks ago after shots were fired there to get them to install more security cameras and add private guards. Allen said the owners are “not doing their job in keeping their own residents safe, as well as their neighbors.”

Dustin Sternbeck, a D.C. police spokesman, said two apartment security cameras trained on the area where Monday’s shooting occurred did not work, leaving investigators without video that might help identify those involved. He said detectives are going door to door in hopes of finding residents with cameras that might help.

Peter Larson, the vice president of property management for Horning Brothers, which owns the apartment complex, said those two cameras have been vandalized twice in the past six months.

“The cost is very expensive and we are taking additional expensive precautions to help prevent further vandalism,” Larson said in an email, noting new cameras should be up and running by early next week.

Larson said company officials “are deeply saddened and distressed” by the shooting on Monday, adding that “safety and well-being of our residents is our prime focus, and we are working hard to address the security challenges.”

Thousands of bullets have been fired in this D.C. neighborhood. Fear is part of everyday life

The property manager said the company has two armed guards in addition to off-duty police officers, who he said drive around different complexes. On Monday night, he said one off-duty D.C. officer had just finished patrolling a location in Ivy City, about two miles away, and another had just been at Azeeze Bates. He said two security guards were in another part of the complex when the shooting occurred.

Larson said he has asked police and lawmakers to put a city camera tower in a public alley where the six people were struck Monday. A police spokesman referred to comments Contee made at the shooting scene. “We are not private security for private property,” the chief said.

On Tuesday, a bullet hole was visible on a wall in an alley next to a church near the apartments.

A mother walking to a carryout for lunch who heard Monday’s gunshots said she kept her children inside Tuesday, and away from the playground in the area. She said they had been out playing a day earlier when the shooting took place.

“When we came outside to check on our kids, we saw the people outside on the ground shot,” the woman said, speaking on the condition of anonymity out of concern for her safety. “Everybody was calling for help.”

The woman said she has lived at Azeeze Bates for the past few years, and now wants to move, not just out of her apartment, but out of Northeast Washington. “Our kids can’t play, we can’t go to the store,” she said. “We fear every time we walk. They have just been randomly shooting in broad daylight, nighttime.”

Washington, who has lived in the area all his life, joked that despite the violence, he plans to stay “69 more” years.

At Lincoln Park in Northeast, a few blocks away, city law enforcement agencies handed out ice cream and cotton candy while chatting with community members Tuesday evening for National Night Out.

Rachel Cerlen, 37, fed her 1-year-old daughter a snow cone and handed a bag of popcorn to her son, 4, while they cooled off in the shade.

“We’re a community that continues to figure out solutions for a lot of these problems beyond just the typical narrative,” she said. “Crime is up here, crime is up everywhere. We all have to keep grappling with that as a country. Our community is doing the best from the top, from the bottom, from the sides to come together and try to figure out the best ways to reduce the crime and support all members of our community.”

Emily Davies contributed to this report.

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