A shooting that left a man dead and a female roommate wounded inside a Capitol Hill condominium this month is being investigated as a possible dispute involving a small group of acquaintances, the District’s police chief said Thursday.
The new details in the June 15 killing of Richfield Chang, 37, were revealed after police said they believe the man who was wanted in the killing, Peter Nhek Neth, 30, fatally shot himself during a standoff with authorities at a townhouse in Ashburn, Va., on Wednesday night.
Officials were awaiting a definitive identification from the medical examiner, but D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham said the dead man has been tentatively identified as Neth, who had been charged in an arrest warrant with first-degree murder.
The chief said at one time Neth and Chang had an “amicable relationship” and that detectives believe the friendship soured and led to the shooting. He said investigators were trying to determine whether Neth was living temporarily with Chang and the woman in the Capitol Hill apartment.
An arrest affidavit says police found ammunition and large amounts of marijuana and money in the apartment, which they described as “set up as an area for retail marijuana sales” and monitored by electronic recording equipment.
The Washington Post obtained a heavily redacted version of the affidavit from police after making a request under the Freedom of Information Act. Because the suspect died before the warrant was served, the affidavit has not been made public through the courts. Police said they do not believe drugs were a motive in the shooting.
Police identified Neth as a suspect hours after Chang was killed and distributed a photo of him three days later. Members of the U.S. Marshals Capital Area Regional Fugitive Task Force said they tracked Neth to the townhouse on Lamoreaux Landing Square in Loudoun County. Authorities said the residence near Dulles International Airport is owned by a relative.
Members of the fugitive task force and the Loudoun County, Sheriff’s Office tried to make contact with Neth over six hours but to no avail. About 8 p.m., police sent a robot inside, and a sheriff’s office spokesman said video showed the man apparently dead in an upstairs room. No one else was home at the time. Authorities said he was dead from what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The discovery brings to end a manhunt that began the day Chang was shot inside his fourth-floor apartment in Jenkins Row, a complex on Pennsylvania Avenue Southeast, which is a short walk to the Potomac Avenue Metro stop.
Relatives of Neth and Chang could not be reached for comment. A woman who identified herself as a relative of the woman who was shot declined to comment. Public records show that Neth, Chang and the woman had acquaintances in common, and all three had ties to Hawaii. Others, including Neth, also had ties or relatives in California, including Monterey and Pasadena.
The arrest affidavit says that shortly before the shooting on June 15, a person in the building reported hearing a commotion in Chang’s apartment and saw the female victim throwing clothing into the hallway. Later, that person told police someone knocked on the victim’s door asking why an ambulance had been called. The document says several males were at the door.
The witness told police of hearing a male voice answer, “Bad things happened here tonight.”
The arrest affidavit says Chang and the woman were each shot multiple times and that detectives found 11 .40-caliber cartridge casings, a magazine filled with 20 .40-caliber bullets, a speed loader designed to quickly feed bullets into a gun and a box of ammunition. It was not immediately clear who possessed those items.
The court document says police found clothing and personal items, including paperwork, belonging to Neth scattered in the hallway. Police also said they found additional personal items and ammunition in a bedroom they believe was used by the suspect and in one of his bags, as well as in a safe in the living room.
Magda Jean-Louis contributed to this report.