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District records more homicides so far this year than in all of 2019

D.C. police investigate a fatal shooting late last year.
D.C. police investigate a fatal shooting late last year. (Peter Hermann/The Washington Post)
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With two fatal shootings in the opening days of November, more people have now been killed in the District this year than in all of 2019.

The shootings Monday and Tuesday in Northeast Washington brought the city’s homicide count to 167, according to D.C. police, one over last year’s total count. The city last surpassed this number of killings in 2008.

Few details on the latest incidents were immediately available. The first occurred about 2:20 p.m. Monday in the 4000 block of Ames Street NE, a block north of East Capitol Street in the Benning neighborhood.

A police report says a man walking a dog found the body of a man in some woods. Police said he was shot multiple times, and his death was ruled a homicide. It was not known when the shooting occurred.

Police identified the victim as Avadis Holtzclaw, 24, of Northwest.

Early Tuesday around midnight, police said, a man was fatally shot in the 4500 block of Dix Street NE, three blocks north of Benning Road and about one mile from where the body was found on Ames Street. Police said they do not think the two shootings are related.

The victim’s name has not been made public, pending notification of relatives.

Track homicides in D.C. region

While many types of crime have slowed during the pandemic, D.C. has seen a rise in homicides and shootings.

Police have attributed much of the violence to disputes involving neighborhood crews and gangs or between people who know one another. D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham has blamed the spike in homicides on a proliferation of illegal firearms. He argues that many of those arrested are being treated too leniently by the criminal justice system and commit new offenses when they return to the community.

After 11-year-old Davon McNeal was fatally shot at an anti-violence cookout on July 4 in Southeast and another shooting killed one man and wounded eight people in Columbia Heights, Newsham said half of “the people that are involved in homicides in our city had been previously arrested with a firearm.”

There were 186 people were slain in the District in 2008, the last time so many people were killed. Gun violence has an outsize role in the District’s killings, with 87 percent of this year’s homicides committed with a firearm, according to D.C. police statistics. That is up from 76 percent at this time last year.

Killings in District reach decade high

Nearly half of this year’s homicides have occurred in Wards 7 and 8, east of the Anacostia. And children and youths continue to be among the victims: Ten juveniles between the ages of 11 and 17 have been killed this year, including 16-year-old Kareem Palmer, who was shot Sunday in Anacostia. Last year, a dozen school-age children were fatally shot or stabbed.

Despite the spike in homicides, overall crime in the District is down this year, driven by drops in thefts and robberies. Thefts of vehicles and carjackings, however, are up. The statistics in the District mirror those in many other large cities across the country that also are seeing higher numbers of shootings and homicides, even as crime in other categories has fallen.

Criminologists have given many explanations for the spikes in shootings and homicides, such as pandemic closures that have eliminated school and other structured settings, the faltering economy, unemployment and stress. Police also have been pulled away from beats to deal with protests, and arrests have decreased during the public health crisis.

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