A man who worked with D.C.’s Safe Passage Safe Blocks program, an effort designed to keep students safe on their commutes to and from school, has died after a Monday afternoon shooting near Coolidge High School in Northwest Washington, police said.
Gaddis was taken to a hospital in critical condition and died of his injuries, officials said.
Gaddis was not on duty at the time of the shooting but was wearing a Safe Passage vest. It is unclear if he was assigned to a Safe Passage route at Coolidge, or at nearby Ida B. Wells Middle or Whittier Elementary schools. D.C.’s Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education, which oversees the Safe Passage program, referred questions to police.
Police have not identified a suspect, who is believed to have fled in a vehicle. Police Chief Robert J. Contee III said during a news conference Tuesday morning that it appears the suspect and the victim knew each other.
“We will work [this case] until we actually get to who the person is that’s responsible for that shooting yesterday,” Contee said of the department’s investigation, adding that the community around Coolidge has been helpful. “And right now, we’re not in a position where we actually know who that is.”
Safe Passage was launched in 2017 to respond to concerns about youth safety, including intimidation, harassment and threats of violence that young people face while walking or riding public transit to school. The city issues grants to community-based organizations, which then hire and manage adults from the neighborhood to staff crosswalks and street corners in high-crime areas around schools.
Gaddis joined Collaborative Solutions for Communities, one of the D.C. organizations that participates in Safe Passage, in November, a spokesman said. The group staffed new Safe Passage routes in the Petworth and Brightwood neighborhoods this school year, a zone that includes 39 workers and 10 campuses, according to the office of the deputy mayor for education.
“The organization is shocked and saddened by his loss and extends the most heartfelt condolences to his family and loved ones,” Collaborative Solutions for Communities said in a statement.
As Safe Passage has expanded — now including a small-scale transportation arm and 160 workers on 52 campuses — so have concerns about the program’s effectiveness, particularly as young people continue to be killed or injured near schools. D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser said Thursday the city remains committed to Safe Passage.
“It is very important that we have trusted adults that are working in these programs, and that will be our focus,” Bowser said. “They are an important part of our public safety patchwork.”