The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

After violent weekend, D.C. homicides up 40 percent over last year

Andre Wright, an assistant D. C. police chief, addresses the media on Sunday after a violent weekend. (D.C. Police Twitter/The Washington Post)
5 min

Five people were killed in three separate shootings in D.C. this weekend, including one which occurred near Audi Field during a soccer match, sending the city’s homicide count soaring to 40 percent above where it stood at the same time last year.

D.C. police statistics show 35 people have been victims of homicides this year, 10 more than at this time in 2022. But police say overall violent crime is down 10 percent since Jan. 1, in part due to a drop in robberies.

In all, eight men have been fatally shot since Friday — four of them in two shootings hours apart on Sunday afternoon in Southeast and Northeast Washington. The first of those occurred inside a rowhouse in the Greenway neighborhood in an argument over rent, according to police, who said they made an arrest. The second happened on a street in Deanwood in what police described as a targeted attack.

“This must not stand,” Andre Wright, an assistant D. C. police chief, told reporters, addressing both of Sunday’s double-fatal shootings. “This is a great city. … We’re not about to turn over our freedoms or our safety, or the safety of our loved ones, to a few a few bad actors who think they can just do whatever they want. That’s not going to happen.”

Wright, asked about the spate of violence, said residents need “to make sure we continue to have the resolve we always have.”

Authorities said 203 people were killed in D.C. last year, 10 percent fewer than in 2021. But it was the second consecutive year the city breached the 200-mark for homicides. Before 2021, the District last saw 200 or more killings in 2003.

Homicides drop in D.C., but mayor calls youth violence an emergency

At a D.C. Council hearing last week, Police Chief Robert J. Contee III noted that shootings in the District have spiked 30 percent since before the pandemic, and he repeated his concerns about a proliferation of illegal firearms. Police said the 9mm handgun used in the Deanwood shooting was a “ghost gun,” an untraceable firearm built from a kit.

Contee told lawmakers at the hearing that progress in lowering crime in one area of the city can be countered when it spikes in another area.

“There is no magic formula, no valid unifying theory of crime that if the police, the government, or the community simply did ‘X,’ crime would decrease 'Y' amount,” Contee said. “Crime happens between strangers as well as friends or loved ones. It can happen on public streets or behind closed doors. It can be a quick reaction from a flash of anger, or it can take planning and forethought.”

Three men were fatally shot Friday between 4:20 p.m. and 10:50 p.m. One man was killed Saturday night about a half-mile from Audi Field in Southwest Washington, according to police. It happened in a residential area as D.C. United played its home opener nearby. Police said there appears to be no connection to the game, other than its proximity.

The first double-shooting on Sunday occurred about 1:15 p.m. inside a rowhouse in the 3300 block of D Street SE. Police said they found David Wright, 57, and Nathaniel Howard, 54, both of Southeast Washington, dead inside a living room. They said one victim was shot in a chair as he played a video game.

Police said they arrested James Jones, 41, of Southeast Washington, a short time later and charged him with second-degree murder while armed. Police said officers saw him shortly after the shooting nearly four miles away in the 900 block of H Street NE, and that he had a “ghost gun” in his front pants pocket.

A D.C. Superior Court judge on Monday ordered Jones detained and set a hearing date for March 10. His attorney listed in an online court docket, Jason D. Tulley with the D.C. Public Defender Service, did not respond to an interview request. Police said in court documents that Jones refused to speak with detectives.

Based on interviews with people who live or frequent the D Street rowhouse, including one person who hid in a closet to escape the gunfire, police said that Jones and the victims had frequently argued.

On Sunday, police said in the court document that Wright and Howard and confronted Jones and accused him of not paying rent and utilities. Efforts to reach relatives of the victims on Monday were not successful.

About 3:45 p.m., police said two men were fatally shot in the 5100 block of Sheriff Road NE, a little more than a mile from the D Street shootings. Police said both men — identified Monday as 34-year-old Harold Bogan, of Temple Hills, and 32-year-old Wayne Sheppard, of Seat Pleasant — died at the scene.

Wright said it appears the shooting was targeted. But authorities said they did not know of a possible motive.

Contee, the police chief, said at the council hearing the department now has fewer than 3,400 officers, down from 3,855 in 2018 and more than 4,000 in 2013. Police blame a council-imposed budget cut in 2020 that forced a hiring freeze, which lawmakers dispute, as well as challenges experienced by departments across the country in recruitment and retention.

Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) has said she wants the force to have 4,000 officers within the next decade, while those who support a smaller department argue there is no correlation to more officers and lower crime. They want resources directed to programs that treat crime as a public health crisis.

Mayor invokes D.C.’s darkest years at meeting on anxiety over crime

Contee said, “We all agree in the importance of the city’s efforts to address root causes through long-term investments in things like education, jobs and homes.” But he said there needs to be consequence for people pulling triggers, “to prevent offenders who are hurting people now from doing it again.”