The family of 10-year-old Makiyah Wilson, who was fatally shot last year while heading to an ice cream truck, filed a lawsuit against the D.C. Housing Authority, alleging that it failed to provide adequate security at the public housing complex where she lived.
The suit, filed late Wednesday in D.C. Superior Court, contends the agency was negligent and did not have protections such as a gate, security cameras or security guards at the Northeast complex, even though there had been numerous shootings there. Officials at the Housing Authority declined to comment on what security measures are in place at the complex.
Makiyah was shot about 7 p.m. July 16 when four masked men drove into a crowded courtyard, jumped from a carjacked black Infiniti and began firing into the crowd in the 300 block of 53rd Street NE, in Clay Terrace. Makiyah was clutching a $5 bill for an ice cream cone when she was shot.
Makiyah was not the intended target, police said, and they blamed the shooting on a feud between residents of Clay Terrace and Wellington Park. The shooting was captured on a D.C. police security camera.
Seven co-defendants were charged in the shooting. A trial is scheduled for next year.
The public housing complex where Makiyah lived with her family is officially named Richardson Dwellings, though it is often referred to as the Clay Terrace apartments. It is one of 54 public housing complexes in the District.
Brian McDaniel, the attorney for Makiyah’s family, said the management failed to take action to protect the residents, including Makiyah, even though there had been numerous episodes of gun violence over several years.
There were three fatal shootings near the complex in 2009, McDaniel said, citing D.C. police crime data. In 2014, two teenagers were killed in a drive-by shooting. In 2015, a man was fatally shot near where Makiyah was killed. And in 2016, a man was shot multiple times but survived. There were also 95 assaults that resulted in weapons charges between July 15, 2010, and July 15, 2018, McDaniel said, citing the police data.
“It became clear that DCHA has done nothing to address the security concerns of those individuals who happen to live in an area that requires some government assistance,” McDaniel said.
“This says to me, that they just don’t care. If you or I have somebody break into our home or invade our privacy, what do we do? We get an alarm system. We get a camera. We do something that addresses that security concern before somebody comes back. But in response to all these violent crimes that have taken place near Clay Terrace, they have not taken any steps to prevent such violence. If they had done anything, it may have led to individuals being deterred from creating the acts that resulted in the death of Makiyah,” McDaniel said.
A statement from DCHA on Thursday said the agency and its executive director, Tyrone Garrett, “continue to mourn the tragic death of Makiyah Wilson and we all must pray for an end to the senseless violence that continues to plague our community.” A DCHA spokeswoman declined to issue any additional comments.
McDaniel filed a $30 million lawsuit against the government agency on behalf of the family. Most so-called premises liability cases often settle out of court for far less than the original amount sought.
McDaniel noted that the camera that recorded the shooting was installed by police, not DCHA. He also said it did not serve as a deterrent because it was hidden. Had the agency posted cameras in plain view, as well as signs that said the area was being monitored, individuals would have been less inclined to engage in crime and violence, he said.
Makiyah’s mother, Donnetta Wilson, said that before Makiyah’s death she had submitted three requests to the DCHA requesting they relocate her and her family to another public assistance complex due to the violence. She said all three of her relocation requests were denied by the agency. The agency declined to comment on her requests.
Wilson said she believed the District does not take the safety of people who live in public housing complexes seriously.
“I want everybody to know, we are making a statement and try to make sure this never happens to no one else’s child,” she said. “I can’t bring my child back. But I can bring change to this city, something that has never been done, for people who live in these complexes.”