The community crime walk along Benning Road in Northeast Washington had been planned before a gunman sprayed bullets on a street corner there, wounding four people early Saturday. The attack made Monday night’s walk more urgent.
The residents passed by Trinidad and Carver-Langston, led by a police commander and a young boy who is a fan of law enforcement. They were three blocks from the scene of Saturday’s shooting at 18th and Benning when police learned another person had just been shot at the same location. They rushed over.
“It goes to show you how volatile the situation is throughout the city,” said Kathy Henderson, an Advisory Neighborhood Commission member in the area and a candidate for the Ward 5 council seat. “A 6-year-old boy leading an anti-crime walk walked into a homicide scene. It’s absurd. We’re at war. Anyone who thinks otherwise is mistaken.”
The victim, Marquiawn Williams, 25, was among four men fatally shot in the District between Monday afternoon and early Tuesday. With more than three months left in the year, the District has already surpassed the 116 homicides in all of 2017. The count now stands at 119.
A surge in deadly violence that marred the summer months — forcing the city to declare a crime emergency east of the Anacostia — reemerged this weekend. At least 21 people have been shot in the District since early Friday. In the latest confirmed incident, two men were wounded about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the 2300 block of Benning Road NE, police said. Another shooting was reported about 11:45 p.m. in the 800 block of Kennedy Street NW. But it was not immediately clear whether that report was confirmed.
Those shot since Friday included a pregnant woman; police said she and her baby survived. At least 10 of the 21 people shot died, including Williams, whose 46-year-old uncle, Paul Williams Jr., was shot and killed in July in Shaw, according to a relative. No city quadrant was spared.
The latest spate of killings began 4 p.m. Monday when Damon Dickens, 23, was shot in the chest outside his grandmother’s home in the 2500 block of Bowen Road SE. Williams was killed about 8 p.m. in the 1800 block of Benning Road NE. About two hours later, Ervin Aull, 47, was shot in the head on a street near a playground, in the 2300 block of 14th Street NE. Anthony Daniel Lawson, 24, was killed about 2:30 a.m. Tuesday in the 6200 block of Eastern Avenue NE.
Dickens’s father, Damon Dickens, Sr., said his son completed basic training in the Army about three months ago and had recently gotten married. He was awaiting deployment — with hopes of joining an airborne division — and was ecstatic to begin the next chapter of his life. “But before he could even make it, this tragedy happens,” Dickens Sr. said.
The younger Dickens was in town to visit cousins, according to his family. He left his grandmother’s home Monday afternoon when his uncle heard gunshots. Damon was hit on a corner and tried to run back for help.
Dickens’s uncle found his nephew lying outside the home, gasping for air. Relatives do not think he was the intended target.
“It’s just sad man, it’s crazy,” said Dickens’s brother, Damion Dickens. “That’s why I just go to work, come home and keep to my house. There’s nothing but trouble out here.”
Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said Tuesday that programs are in place to combat crime. She said there is not only law enforcement, but also outreach to at-risk youth and others struggling to get off the streets. Violent crime is down 7 percent across the city; homicide is the only violent crime category that is up.
Bowser said the weekend violence was “dramatic, outrageous, and it happened in different places across the city.” She added that most shootings involved people who had contact with the criminal justice system.
Fear of crime has reached into some of the District’s more affluent neighborhoods. D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham met Monday night with residents of Logan Circle who are concerned about the Sept. 18 fatal stabbing of 35-year-old Wendy Martinez, who was attacked while running through 11th and P streets NW.
Some residents told the chief they felt violent crime was going up, though Newsham described Logan Circle as “very, very safe.” The chief said Martinez was attacked at random. “I wish I had a better explanation on why this happened, but I don’t,” he said. “I can tell you it’s very rare, it’s very unusual, it’s not something that happens, particularly in this community.”
On Tuesday, the D.C. Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety met to discuss the police department’s crime-fighting plan, which in part consists of targeting guns and repeat violent offenders, coupled with considerable community outreach. The hearing was scheduled before the latest outbreak of violence.
Council Member Trayon White Sr. (D-Ward 8), where many of the District’s slayings have occurred, urged his colleagues and other officials to step up and battle crime with real money and programs. “Keep it real,” he said, adding, “We can’t keep saying crime is down.”
Sarah Dachos, from Moms Demand Action DC, a group that combats violence as a public health crisis, testified that after one young man recently was killed walking near a convenience store, she saw it reported that he had been in the “wrong place at the wrong time.”
No, Dachos told the committee, “In reality, in the wrong place are all the illegal guns in our community.”
Fenit Nirappil and Martin Weil contributed to this report.