When the gunfire in Northwest Washington’s Truxton Circle finally subsided over the Memorial Day weekend, the shaken community surveyed the loss and damage.
Eight people shot on Q Street on Saturday. One man dead.
As many as 40 bullets fired on three streets Monday afternoon from a black four-door sedan. Hours later, two men, first in cars and then on foot, engaged in a shootout on North Capitol Street, police said.
Over two days, 10 vehicles were struck by gunfire — three with flat tires, others with windshields blown out or bullet-pierced hoods and trunks. Two people were arrested in Monday’s first shootings but none so far in Saturday’s deadly attack. Two guns, including a 9mm semiautomatic, were seized by police. With summer about to begin, families living there are scared the violence would continue.
“We had a rough weekend,” said D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham as he and other police officials began a walking tour Tuesday of the triangular-shaped neighborhood bordered by New York, New Jersey and Florida avenues.
When the entourage reached Doretha Pinkett’s house on Bates Street, they had one more statistic to tally. Her family found a chip head-high in a brick near her front door, apparently damage from a bullet from the Q Street shooting one block away.
“I’m not moving,” Pinkett sternly told the officers and their white-shirted bosses who came over to take a look and file a destruction-of-property report.
Truxton Circle is one of those District neighborhoods struggling to gentrify while still confronting entrenched violence that stretches back generations. There is a mix of new residents, attracted to still-affordable homes, and longtime neighbors.
Each year, the tiny neighborhood wedged in among Shaw, Bloomingdale and Eckington seems to erupt in violent spasms. Last summer, four men were shot in front of the neighborhood’s signature entrance — the four-story turret of Big Ben Liquor Store that looms over New York Avenue and North Capitol Street.
The shooting by a masked man came at the height of the evening rush hour on one of the traffic-clogged arteries in and out of the District. When police made arrests, they learned the suspected gunman was taking revenge for the fatal stabbing of a friend. At a community meeting, the 5th District police commander, William Fitzgerald, proclaimed the Big Ben corner “a long-term, open-air drug market.”
A year later, that corner remains volatile, but overall violent crime in Truxton Circle — including assaults, shootings and robberies — has dropped from 72 incidents at this time in 2016 to 33 this year. Robberies have dropped from 45 to 21. The only category that has gone up is homicide, with two this year. There were none recorded through the first five months of 2016.
Still, the overall statistics do not matter much to a 47-year-old husband and father who moved to Hanover Place 10 years ago and works as a manager for a beverage company. He has a wife and a 3-year old daughter and was outside holding a pink sippy cup adorned with a dancer when Newsham led his tour.
“A lot of times there are problems and my wife calls me, and I leave my job and come running here,” the man told Newsham. He asked that his name not be used, out of fear.
“Last night my wife was crying,” the man said. “She wants to move from here. And look, I put a lot of effort in my house. I have my camera, my flowers and my plants. But we need safety, security. It’s not fair. Twice a bullet came through my window.”
Newsham and other police officials who joined Tuesday evening’s tour said they are investigating whether any of the three shooting incidents are related.
The first shooting occurred about 1 a.m. Saturday in the parking lot of a low-rise apartment complex in the 100 block of Q Street NW, across from a neat line of $600,000 rowhouses. Police said a gunman opened fire into a crowd, killing Algernon Harvey Jones, 32, of Southeast and wounding seven others. None of the victims listed addresses in Truxton Circle; one was from Maryland.
Police said they did not know whether Jones was the intended target; relatives could not be reached. At a makeshift memorial in a parking space where he fell, the words “RIP Al” are spelled out in small votive candles, surrounded by empty bottles of sparkling wine, tequila and vodka.
The next shootings occurred Monday about 5 p.m., with gunfire reported in the 1400 block of North Capitol Street, then on O Street, and then on Hanover Street. In all, police reports say, as many as 40 bullets were fired; officers made two arrests and confiscated a 9mm Taurus Millennium handgun found under a seat in the suspects’ vehicle. About 7:45 p.m. that same night, police reported a gun battle in the 1400 block of North Capitol Street. No arrests were made, but police found a gun discarded in a back yard.
Alanes Talbert has lived on Bates Street for more than 30 years. The 67-year-old woman retired after spending 44 years with the federal General Services Administration managing commodities. She raised a son on Bates Street who on this day was at his job with Metro.
As Newsham and the group of established residents and newcomers pushing baby strollers approached, Talbert leaned out of her door and, keeping her voice low, said, “It’s been terrible the last three or four days.”
Talbert said that on the day 40 bullets were fired into her neighborhood she was in a back room watching television, the sound pumped up. She didn’t hear any of the pops. But, she said, “I saw through the window people running.” She knew there was trouble. “I panicked,” Talbert said. “I’ve seen the good, the bad, the ugly.”
She ducked inside before Newsham and the others walked by. A sticker on her front door offered a warning to would-be criminals: “Killer Dachshund on duty.”