“IT’S UNCLEAR whether or not the 11-year-old was the intended target. It’s unimaginable that an 11-year-old would ever be an intended target, but we have not ruled that out at this point.” That was D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham on Monday discussing the fatal shooting four days earlier of Karon Brown in Southeast Washington.

Indeed, there is much that is unimaginable about the death of this child. How a simple walk in his neighborhood to a McDonald’s on a hot summer night turned fatal. How his mother is now making plans to bury her son instead of getting him ready for sixth grade. How her other children are trying to cope with what happened. “I still can’t believe it,” said Kathren Brown, Karon’s mother. “I am waiting for someone to say all this did not just happen.”

Karon was one of eight people — including a father and his teenage son — fatally shot in the District over the span of just five days. There were nearly a dozen other shootings. Homicides so far are up 11 percent over this time last year, which saw a 40 percent jump in homicides. The pace of the violence in recent days is reminiscent of the deadly days of the crack epidemic in the late 1980s and early 1990s — and that, too, should be unimaginable.

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“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 at Monday’s news briefing. Mr. Newsham again raised alarm over the proliferation of illegal firearms in the city, blaming a criminal-justice system that gingerly treats those charged with criminal possession of guns, and states — such as Virginia — that do too little to prevent gun trafficking.

Government, the mayor said, must double down on social supports, violence prevention programs and law enforcement strategies to confront the violence, but so, too, must the community be enlisted in the fight. That a suspect was quickly arrested in Karon’s death and charged with first-degree murder while armed was the result of numerous tips to police by citizens justifiably horrified at the killing of a child. Such cooperation is not always forthcoming. “It shouldn’t take the death of an 11-year-old for people to come forward,” the chief said. “Every single time that somebody dies in our city, people should come forward with that same passion.” As of Monday evening, the seven other homicide cases remained open.

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