Quietly rolling up Savannah Street SE, the sedan didn’t draw much attention — until the U-turn.
That’s when, on the return trip back up the street, a gunman leaned from the passenger window of the gray or silver vehicle and repeatedly fired a handgun along the cul-de-sac, witnesses told police.
A 20-year-old woman visiting from Prince George’s County heard three shots and people yelling: “Duck! Duck! Duck!” She didn’t duck in time. Cowering behind a friend’s car, she realized that she had been hit.
A bullet burned in her left hip, but her pain had just begun as she discovered that another bullet had ripped through her abdomen. Little did she know that she would wait nearly 20 minutes for an ambulance to arrive.
She sat paralyzed by fear and pain. She prayed.
“When I got behind the car, I thought they were going to come and finish me off,” she said. “I heard three shots before I got behind the car, but they still went on and on and on.”
The young woman, who agreed to be interviewed on the condition that her name not be used because she is a witness, was one of two people wounded on Savannah Street that night, and she is one of dozens of people wounded or killed by gunfire during a particularly violent summer in the District.
Police said they are concerned about a spate of shootings across the city and are trying to explain the reason for the uptick in violence this year. On Friday night, a girl younger than 10 was shot and wounded in Southeast Washington. Early Saturday, two young men were fatally shot. And early Sunday, another male had been shot to death.
“If you look at what is driving our violent crime in most of these cases it is not open-air street markets,” said D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier at a Thursday news conference, standing next to Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D). “It’s kind of hard to put your finger on it.”
Indeed, just hours before the shooting on Savannah Street, police and ambulances responded to a quadruple shooting in Northeast Washington on Edgewood Terrace. Two other fire department trucks responded within three minutes and nine minutes, fire department officials said.
The only available ambulance crews in the city were more than seven miles away from the Savannah Street shooting and took 17 minutes to arrive, fire officials said.
On Monday, Lanier is scheduled to attend a conference of big-city police chiefs who will meet in Washington to discuss the rise in violent crime nationwide. “We’re all seeing the same thing,” she said at the news conference.
The incident involving the 20-year-old Prince George’s resident began about 11:32 p.m. on a warm Friday night.
She had come for a small get-together at the home of her friend’s grandfather in a neighborhood she knew little about. It was fun, talking and dancing to celebrate the 23rd birthday of her friend.
Two hours before the shootings, the woman and her friend tried to leave but noticed the friend’s keys had been locked inside the car. The two broke a window on the Toyota to get inside, and at about 11 p.m. they were taping a plastic bag over the opening.
Minutes later, the sedan arrived, and they heard the sound of gunfire.
Police crime technicians would later recover a cartridge casing and bullet fragment in front of two Savannah Street homes, according to a police report.
A man in his 20s also suffered a gunshot wound, but he managed to walk to United Medical Center in Southeast, the report said.
The 20-year-old woman suffered six holes in her intestines as the bullet ricocheted inside her abdomen. Surgeons stitched each hole, and she spent five days in a Maryland hospital recovering. Her family expects that she will be confined to her upstairs bedroom in the coming weeks and months because she cannot navigate the stairs. The young woman said she’ll miss at least a month of work from her job as a shift supervisor at a McDonald’s where she has worked for three years.
As she sat wounded on Savannah Street and the sound of her prayers were mixed with the sound of gunshots, she felt grateful to have survived. “I heard the gunfire go down the street and I thought, ‘maybe they are gone,’ ” she recalled.
But in the days since the shooting, the sound of gunshots has been replaced by nightmares. Some nights she awakens while sweating, sometimes just frightened.
“I think they are still after me,” she says. “The bullets could have went anywhere. My spine. I could have been dead. It really scares me.”
It was only the second time she had visited that neighborhood, and though she graduated from a District charter school and is well acquainted with the city, the episode made her reluctant and fearful to return, she said.
Her mother wants police and District authorities to help stop the violence.
“I hope they are on their P’s and Q’s, and I hope they arrest this guy,” the mother said. “What is your motive for running around shooting innocent people?”