A confrontation that led to last week’s fatal shooting of an 11-year-old boy in Southeast Washington came after a series of fights involving children, the accused shooter told police. He described one of the children as his stepson.
It is unclear whether the young victim, Karon Brown, was involved in the earlier altercations. He was among those confronted Thursday outside a McDonald’s restaurant. A witness told police that the man charged with killing him, Tony Antoine McClam, 29, sold cookies for $1 with a stepson as part of a “hustle” near the gas station.
Police are investigating whether the series of disputes leading up to the shooting are linked to the suspect’s business.
Karon was shot shortly before 7 p.m. on Thursday while running from a fight that broke out among the battling children in front of the McDonald’s near the gas station at Naylor Road and Alabama Avenue. Police said Karon got into a silver Nissan sedan that happened by — waved in by a driver who saw the violence and sought to help — and asked to be driven home to Woodland Terrace.
Police said a shirtless man with a gun who had been involved in the dispute at the restaurant shot at the Nissan, hitting Karon in the back.
Police arrested McClam on Saturday on the platform of the Columbia Heights Metro station and said he had a 9mm cartridge in the left pocket of his shorts. He initially was charged with second-degree murder, but prosecutors upgraded the charge to first-degree murder while armed.
McClam made his first appearance on Monday in D.C. Superior Court, surrounded by U.S. marshals and shackled at the wrists and ankles. His attorney, James King of the Public Defender Service, argued his client was protecting himself when he shot into the Nissan. McClam told police he saw the driver lean down and feared that he was reaching for a weapon and that he did not see the boy in the car.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Liebman argued McClam shot into the car three separate times. And each time, Liebman said, he shot into the back seat of the vehicle where Karon was seated. He described McClam’s self-defense claim as “unbelievable.”
Police said that they found a pink and black 9mm handgun during a search of a residence linked to McClam, and that his girlfriend’s 14-year-old son had tried to sell the weapon on social media for $100.
Magistrate Judge Renee Raymond ordered McClam to remain in jail until trial. “It is more likely than not that the defendant would be found guilty,” Raymond said.
McClam’s next hearing is scheduled for Aug. 2.
Karon was one of eight people fatally shot in five days in the District.
“Time and time again, unfortunately, we have seen people who are willing, who demonstrate, who have histories of callous disregard for human life — people who have a willingness to snatch the innocence of childhood from our kids and our community,” Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said on Monday.
Witnesses and the suspect have given accounts in court documents that conflict with other information, and D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham said detectives are trying to determine the precise motive.
“It’s unclear whether or not the 11-year-old was the intended target,” Newsham said. “It’s unimaginable that an 11-year-old would ever be an intended target, but we have not ruled that out at this point.”
Karon and his brother Quentin, 12, had walked to the McDonald’s, which was not far from their home, to get food for their older sister. Quentin became impatient and returned home, but Karon stayed, their mother said.
Quentin was sent back about 7 p.m. to get his brother, but by that time, the fight had started.
About that time, two people in the Nissan Sentra who were trying to buy cigarettes pulled into the BP parking lot. The driver told police that Karon was “getting jumped” by “grown men” and that he and his passenger asked the boy whether he needed help. Karon got into their car and asked to be driven home to Woodland Terrace.
Police said in the arrest affidavit that the driver initially headed the wrong way, then made a U-turn. At some point, police said, a gunman opened fire on the vehicle. The two people in the Nissan, who told police they did not know Karon, looked back and saw the boy bleeding. The driver sped to a fire station in Maryland, and Karon was taken from there to a hospital in the District, where he died.
Police said their investigation led them to McClam’s apartment building near the shopping plaza. McClam later reached out to a homicide detective he knew because she had investigated the fatal shooting of his brother, Marcus J. McClam, 29, in 2015.
Tony McClam told police that he had purchased a 9mm handgun in North Carolina for protection because of the shooting of his brother. He also told police that his stepson had been attacked by some other children while playing at a park two days before Karon was killed, according to the affidavit. He said there were more fights in subsequent days.
McClam told police that he, another adult and several juveniles went to the McDonald’s to confront the juveniles they thought were involved in the earlier fights, the affidavit says. He said they surrounded Karon and another youth. McClam said one of the youths with him punched either Karon or his companion. Karon and the other youth ran.
According to McClam, the driver of the Nissan asked him, “Why are you jumping my nephew?” Police said in the affidavit and in interviews that the occupants of the Nissan were not related to or acquainted with Karon.
Paul Duggan and Magda Jean-Louis contributed to this report.