The surviving victims suffered wounds ranging from minor to critical, and Police Chief Peter Newsham said intelligence links three of them to a crew operating in the Columbia Heights Village complex off 13th Street NW. He said four of the victims had been arrested in the past on gun charges.
But Newsham also said that the man who died, Vincent Carter, 21, was not listed by police as a crew member and was not among those with a prior gun arrest. Court records show Carter lived in Southeast Washington but was arrested on the block where the shooting occurred on a trespassing charge in December. It was dismissed after Carter completed a court-ordered program. His relatives could not be reached on Friday.
“Apparently he does have a tie to this neighborhood,” Newsham said. He added that investigators do not know which of the victims, if any, were the intended target. Newsham said detectives are trying to determine if Thursday’s shooting is related to the killing in March of a man on the same block in what police said stemmed from a dispute between neighborhoods.
The chief joined Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) at the Columbia Road apartment complex to address that shooting and another unrelated shooting three miles away and 20 minutes later in the 1300 block of Brentwood Road, in Northeast Washington, off Rhode Island Avenue.
Police said Sean Coleman-Bey, 20, of Northeast Washington, was killed in that shooting, and two bystanders were wounded. Newsham said Coleman-Bey was targeted by a man wearing a mask and gloves, but detectives don’t know why. Police are searching for a pickup truck in that case.
The shootings of nine people in two parts of the city less than a half-hour apart forced Newsham and Bowser to once again address the issue of violence and gunfire that has pushed the year’s homicide count to 127, a 19 percent increase over this time last year.
Both District officials blamed the proliferation of guns and extended magazines that allow some firearms to hold many bullets. They urged people to report others with guns.
“Let’s be clear,” Bowser said of the shooting on Columbia Road NW. “Six people being shot on a well-populated street like this puts everyone’s life in danger. We need to get those guns off the streets, and the people off the street.” Of the gunmen, she said, “Someone who knows them and loves them knew about these guns, more than likely.”
Newsham said police have not yet determined the precise weapon that was used by at least one of the shooters, but he described it as “high-powered weapon.” Police on Twitter said it was an “AK style rifle.”
The chief would not specify how many gunshots were fired, but he said “it was certainly more than we should tolerate in this community.” Newsham said police recovered a handgun near where the victims were shot, but he said it had not been fired during the incident and it was unclear if it belonged to any of the victims. Police said four men and one woman were wounded.
On Friday morning, residents emerged from their apartments to find alleyways and building entrances still guarded by yellow police tape, draped over cars, tied to gutters and spread across lawns, an indication of the sprawling crime scene. A woman and a young child carrying takeout food boxes stepped over blood smeared just inside the entrance to one apartment building.
Across the street, a group of young men and women argued among themselves. Though only snippets could be heard, it was clear the shooting the night before was the topic. Anger was evident throughout the complex, and many people simply turned and walked away when questioned.
Two people who heard the shots described it as one loud boom rather than distinctive “pops” from a handgun. “I hear gunshots all the time,” said one woman who was on her balcony in a nearby building, and spoke on the condition she not be named for fear of her safety. “Last night was more intense than usual.”
Dotti Love Wade, an Advisory Neighborhood Commission member for the area, said she was returning home from a meeting when the shooting occurred. She didn’t hear the shots but recoiled as she listened to the police chief describe the weapon.
“Oh, my God,” Wade said. “There is no reason for these kinds of weapons to exist in America, let alone the nation’s capital.”