Late one January 2020 morning, Patrick Oseni, his then-girlfriend and three friends were gathered in his Northwest D.C. apartment when Oseni heard a knock at his door.
Oseni’s friends rushed him to Howard University Hospital, where he underwent two surgeries on his arm. At the hospital, Oseni said he told police he did not see his attacker, and had no idea who it was or how the person got into the building. “I was in shock. I had never been shot before,” Oseni said. “The doctors told me I was lucky to be alive.”
When Oseni returned to his apartment building a few days later, he discovered his key fob no longer worked. He said a building manager met him in the lobby and told him that his neighbors no longer felt safe with him living there, and he should retrieve his belongings and move out immediately.
Nearly a year after the incident, Oseni, who is Black, filed a $7.5 million lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court against the apartment complex, the Capitol View on 14th, and its parent company, Colorado-based UDR, Inc., alleging the building’s management discriminated against him based on race. He was only four months into a 14-month lease, according to his suit. In early September, a judge ruled Oseni’s lawsuit could move forward.
“This was crazy. I literally had just gotten shot. They escorted me to my apartment, told me to grab an overnight bag and I had to go stay in a hotel,” Oseni, 31, said in a recent interview. “I was victimized again. It was unbelievable.”
The apartment complex disputes Oseni’s claims. “We deny Mr. Oseni was wrongfully evicted,” said UDR’s attorney, Darcy C. Osta. “The defendants look forward to presenting their case for decision based on all of the facts, should the plaintiff’s case survive further legal challenges ahead.”
Oseni alleges the apartment complex was negligent in ensuring that the building was secure, and in preventing nonresidents from gaining access. The Howard University graduate alleges that because he is Black, the building’s management assumed he must have been involved in illegal activity that culminated in the shooting.
While investigating the shooting, police found four shell casings in the hallway outside Oseni’s apartment. Inside, police found a small stash of marijuana, hashish and six bullets of various calibers, according to a police report. Police initially charged Oseni with possession with intent to distribute and unlawful possession of ammunition. Prosecutors later dismissed the charges. Mark A. Smith, one of Oseni’s attorneys, said it was “unclear” who the items belonged to since so many people visited.
D.C. police have not arrested anyone involved in the shooting. Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck said detectives have made “repeated” attempts to follow-up with Oseni and the others in the apartment at the time of the shooting, but they have yet to do so.
Smith said that after his client was evicted, he returned to his parents’ home in New York for a few weeks to recover. Smith said, “as time passed, there was not follow up from either side,” referring to both his client and police.
Housing experts say there is growing pressure on landlords to protect their tenants — including from their neighbors. Ezra Rosser, an American University housing law professor, said there has been an increasing number of cases nationwide involving landlords evicting tenants, even after the tenant has been the victim of violence in their homes — which sometimes spurs controversy.
“Landlords that don’t evict or fine these tenants could have a claim filed against them for not having a safe premises,” Rosser said. “The writing is all over the place as to the morality of this. It does leave the victim of violence in a bad place with the landlord, but it also leaves the landlord in a bad place with the other tenants.”
Oseni moved into the $3,200-a-month, one-bedroom apartment in September 2019. The lease was up in November 2020. He said he had already paid his January rent before he was shot. Oseni said he is an entrepreneur who owns and manages a fleet of four, high-end luxury cars, which he rents to customers.
“I thought it was a safe building, but obviously it wasn’t. Capitol View was trying to make me look like I was this bad guy, and I wasn’t. I’m not,” Oseni said. “I am a Black man who was the victim of a shooting, and they treated me like the shooting was my fault.”
In the lawsuit, Oseni’s attorneys argue that after the shooting, building management emailed residents and told them that Oseni knew his attacker. Oseni said that was not what he told police when he was hospitalized. In a recent interview, Sternbeck, the police spokesman, said the shooting did not appear “to be random.”
Smith said he believes his client was shot due to mistaken identity.
A month after Oseni’s shooting, while investigating a reported kidnapping, D.C. police searched an apartment just three doors away from where Oseni lived, and found a cache of drugs, guns and money. They seized two semiautomatic pistols and an Uzi-style rifle, along with thousands of dollars worth of hallucinogenic mushrooms, crystal meth, cocaine, marijuana, synthetic cannabinoids and cash, according to a search warrant. A police spokeswoman said two people were arrested in connection with the reported kidnapping incident, but no one has been for the items found in the apartment.
Smith, a former federal prosecutor, said he believes Oseni’s assailant meant to target the occupants with the drugs, cash and weapons, but mistakenly went to Oseni’s apartment.
“I am not a criminal,” Oseni said. “I am a victim. Twice. First, after being shot and then by this management company.”
Peter Hermann and Alice Crites contributed to this report.