As classmates and others mourned the 13-year-old killed in Northeast Washington over the weekend, pressure built for D.C. authorities to publicly identify and charge the man who told police he fatally shot the youth after seeing him breaking into vehicles.
Council member Trayon White Sr. (D-Ward 8) said he didn’t know “how a person shoots a kid in the community and admits to doing it and is not detained.”
Police and prosecutors have declined to share many details about the incident, which occurred shortly before 4 a.m. in the 1000 block of Quincy Street NE, including the shooter’s name or the precise circumstances of the encounter.
They have said a man who lived on the street confronted Karon after he heard noises, then claimed to have seen the youth and possibly others breaking into vehicles. Police have said it appears two other youths ran away.
Police have said they are consulting with prosecutors on whether criminal charges should be filed. They and the U.S. attorney’s office declined to discuss any evidence or provide a timeline for completing their review. Authorities typically do not identify people under investigation until formal charges are filed in court.
The incident has increased tension in the District over crime and accountability that had been building amid a spike in carjackings involving youths and a growing number of young people being shot. Violent crime declined last year compared with 2021, but six people were killed in the District in the first week of the new year, including Karon and a 17-year-old.
Nee Nee Taylor, founder of the DC Safety Squad, an activist group supporting Karon’s family, likened Saturday’s shooting to “vigilante behavior” and threatened “collective action” if authorities don’t share more information.
The group, a coalition of people trained to respond to emergencies as an alternative to police, said they are working with others to research property records for Quincy, where the shooting occurred, to try to identify the shooter.
“We cannot normalize people feeling that bringing a gun to a car break-in or a carjack, or anything involved in property, is a solution to decrease crime,” Taylor said.
D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) on Monday said that “we would rather be talking about a 13-year-old going to school today than to talk about him being killed on our streets. And I am incredibly saddened by that.” When people witness crimes, she said, “the appropriate thing to do” is to “call 911.”
Authorities said the man cooperated with investigators, has a permit for his firearm and was performing CPR on the youth when police arrived. They have not said who called 911, or if emergency responders were contacted about a possible break-in before the shooting.
Karon, a student at Brookland Middle School, died at a hospital; a police report said he had been shot multiple times in the body. Police said they recovered a firearm at the scene. It was the one used by the shooter, and there is no indication Karon was armed, authorities have said.
A D.C. police spokesman said there is a security camera at a residence on Quincy, and investigators are collecting evidence that includes that footage.
Karon’s family has not spoken publicly. Wendy Hamilton, who works at Karon’s school, described him as inquisitive, smart and charismatic — a student who could be found with a book tucked under one arm.
“I don’t know why he was out at 4 in the morning, but I don’t care about that right now,” said Hamilton, noting she was speaking as a community member rather than as a school official. She also criticized authorities for withholding the name of the shooter.
“I really need to understand, in the name of transparency and accountability and what our leadership claims they want to do in this city, why are you letting this wound fester?” Hamilton said. “His mother deserves better.”
D.C. police on Monday declined to provide details about the investigation. Bowser also refused to discuss specifics of the case, citing its ongoing status.
Lindsey Appiah, the deputy mayor for public safety and justice, issued a statement saying the District is “committed to being as open and transparent as possible in all matters while also ensuring that we act in a manner that advances the fair and equitable administration of justice.”
Parker, who is in his second week on the council, said in a statement that “our community healing is linked to the trust we are able to cultivate with those tasked with keeping us safe.” He said residents “are entitled to knowing more about the circumstances of Karon’s death.”
The new chair of the council’s public safety committee, Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2), said she is “outraged and horrified” about the shooting but declined to say whether police should name the shooter before the investigation is completed.
“It is an important thing to look at the police protocols around releasing names and making sure protocols are being applied consistently,” she said.
Yvette M. Alexander, a former council member from Ward 7, faced some criticism on Twitter over the weekend when she tweeted: “I applaud these private citizens protecting our communities. These punks better watch out, cause law abiding folks are locked and loaded!”
Alexander said that she posted the tweet after Karon had been shot but that her message was about a case in Texas in which a bystander fatally shot someone during a robbery. She said she didn’t know about the shooting on Quincy at the time.
In an interview, she said the “13-year-old didn’t deserve to be shot,” but she said she is worried that frustration over crime could lead to similar encounters.
“Citizens are feeling the laws in this city do not do not do enough to deter crime,” Alexander said. “So they feel open and vulnerable to being victims. People are taking the law into their own hands.”
Hamilton said Karon often walked his younger siblings to and from a nearby elementary school, and in gym class he helped a girl who struggled to play basketball.
She said the boy liked being hugged — unusual for a middle-schooler. “You don’t see that around his age, especially as they are getting older,” she said. “He was very comfortable with who he was.”
Kynnedee Shaw, 11, said she saw Karon on Friday, the day before he was killed, after a math class. She stood next to him outside their school, waiting for their parents to pick them up.
Kynnedee, in sixth grade, had gotten to know Karon in the school gym, tossing around a football and playing basketball. She described him as “funny, calm and playful.”
When her mother arrived at the school on Friday, Karon turned to Kynnedee and said, “I’ll see you on Monday.” She replied, “All right.”
Two days later, on Sunday, a friend FaceTimed Kynnedee and said Karon had been killed.
“I just want to know why,” she said outside the school on Monday. “Why did this happen to him?
She said when she arrived at school Monday morning, she overheard friends talking about why the boy was outside at that hour. It made Kynnedee angry.
“Stop talking about him,” she said she told them, thinking that he did not deserve to die, no matter what he was doing. Her friends kept talking, she said, so she left her blueberry muffin on the table and went to the bathroom to cry. She decided not to talk about Karon for the rest of the day.
Lauren Lumpkin and Karina Elwood contributed to this report.