In one of the worst spates of gun violence in the District in recent memory, at least 19 people were found shot in five days, including 11-year-old Karon Brown, killed Thursday, and six people whose bodies turned up over the weekend, among them a father and his teenage son, police said.
From Wednesday afternoon, when a man was fatally shot near Ballou STAY High School in the Congress Heights area of Southeast, through Sunday evening, when a man was gunned down near the Congress Heights Metro station, a mile from the high school, the city recorded eight homicides in a 99-hour stretch.
In what appeared to be yet another killing not included in the five-day count, police reported a fatal shooting Monday night. It occurred in the 1300 block of Saratoga Avenue NE, according to Officer Sean Hickman, a police spokesman.
Earlier, amid a blistering heat wave, police were called to crime scene after crime scene across the city, finding dead and wounded victims in homes, at hospitals and on the streets.
Detectives arrested a suspect in Karon’s death. The eight killings raised the District’s 2019 homicide tally to 94, compared with 85 at this time last year. The overall homicide total last year was 160, up significantly from the previous year’s 116 killings.
In addition to the eight homicide victims, at least 11 people were wounded in nonfatal shootings, according to police.
At a news briefing Monday, Police Chief Peter Newsham attributed the violence to the proliferation of illegal firearms in the city. He said people charged with criminal gun possession are not subjected to tough enough treatment in the District’s justice system, and he called on the public to take a greater role in stemming violence.
Although he seemed to be referring to the handling of gun cases by the U.S. attorney’s office and D.C. judges, Newsham said, “I’m not going to point the finger at any of my criminal-justice partners.” But he added: “I’m not comfortable with the consequences that are being meted out for possession of illegal firearms . . . As chief of police, I’m convinced that it’s not changing behaviors.”
In February, D.C. and federal officials announced that more gun-possession cases would be prosecuted in U.S. District Court rather than D.C. Superior Court, which could mean longer prison terms for some offenders.
As for public involvement, Newsham said many people offered tips to homicide detectives that led to an arrest in Karon’s killing, a crime that stunned the civic conscience, given the victim’s age.
Such cooperation is not the norm in the city, and “it shouldn’t take the death of an 11-year-old for people to come forward,” he said.
“Every single time that somebody dies in our city, people should come forward with that same passion,” the chief said. “I can say with certainty that there are folks in our community who have seen young men carrying illegal guns and have not notified the police. And until we decide as a community that we’re going to call the police every single time, we’re going to continue to have gun violence.”
The spate of killings began shortly before 4:30 p.m. Wednesday when Mondell Valentine, 28, was shot in the 3800 block of Second Street SE. Then came Karon’s death, about 7 p.m. Thursday near Naylor and Good Hope roads SE. Police said the boy had walked to a McDonald’s restaurant, where a fight broke out involving adults and children. After the altercation spilled into the street, gunfire cracked, and Karon was hit.
Tony Antoine McClam, 29, of Southeast Washington was arrested Saturday and charged with murder in Karon’s death.
Shortly before 6 p.m. Friday, Hugh Washington, 57, and Ahkii Washington-Scruggs, 17, were found fatally shot in a home in the 1000 block of Queen Street NE. “At this point, the incident does not appear to be domestic,” said Newsham, who described the victims as father and son. Police said it was not immediately clear when they died.
The next homicide victim, Eric Byrd, 34, of Southeast, was found about 2:42 a.m. Saturday in the 1100 block of U Street NW, in the roadway, shot several times. Less than 90 minutes later, Delwaun Lyons, 23, was found suffering from gunshot wounds in the 3000 block of 30th Street SE. He later died at a hospital.
About 10:30 Saturday night, police were called to the 2600 block of Sherman Avenue NW for a report of gunshots. They learned that a victim “had shown up at a local hospital suffering from multiple gunshot wounds” and was in dire condition, Newsham said. The man, whom police have not publicly identified, died Sunday at the hospital.
At 7:41 p.m. on Sunday, Jamal Bandy, 27, was found in the 1300 block of Congress Street SE, in an alley, shot several times. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.
Although a gun-possession defendant in the city could get five years in prison for a first conviction, court guidelines call for a sentence ranging from probation to two years. A second gun-possession conviction carries up to a decade in prison and, in many cases, lands the offender behind bars for at least a year or so.
Those penalties need to be tougher to discourage offenders, Newsham said.
“It’s very simple,” he said. “In a large majority of cases, you have suspects that are involved in the criminal justice system pretty intensely. They’ve been arrested — many of them, to the tune of 50 percent — with an illegal firearm prior to the murder . . . We need to do a better job of holding those folks accountable the first time. Because once someone is killed, they’re dead forever.”