Credit: Darrow Montgomery

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The District officially exceeded last year’s total murder count, with 161 reported homicides as of Friday.

At this time last year, 156 people had died in homicides, and the four more died in the final days of the year, according to Metropolitan Police Department data. By the end of 2018, 160 people were killed in D.C. by fatal shootings, stabbings, or other violent acts. Now, with the fatal shooting of 28-year-old Richard Washington on Thursday, D.C. surpassed last year’s murder count. Washington, of Northeast D.C., was shot on the 3900 Block of Minnesota Avenue NE.

The District’s homicide count has nearly doubled since 2012, when there were 88 reported homicides—a record low for the city that saw numbers surpassing 400 per year in the early 1990s. 

City Paper spoke with dozens of people who knew this year’s homicide victims in an effort to learn about the lives the city lost this year to senseless violence. These people were sons, daughters, siblings, partners, colleagues, and community leaders. In writing over 40 remembrances for homicide victims, it became clear that everyone was somebody’s everything. 

“He was a strong, intelligent, Christian man whose intentions were always about—[quoting Matthew 22:39] ‘helping thy neighbor as thyself,’” says Latricia Burgess of her father, 60-year-old Joseph Burgess, who was killed in a fire on Jan. 5 of this year. 

One of the youngest homicide victims this year was 11-year-old Karon Brown, who was fatally shot on the 2700 block of Naylor Road SE on July 18.

“He was funny, a very caring little boy,” says his mother, Kathren Brown. “I just miss his smile and his laughter. Irritating us sometimes, getting on our nerves. I miss all of that.”

Local advocates tell City Paper that one death is too many.  

“Over the years it’s been, ‘Oh look, it’s the lowest number it’s been in a generation,’ and there was a celebratory wrapping around the homicide number,” says founder of NO MURDERS DC, David Bowers. “But there’s a difference between progress and ‘mission accomplished.’ What about those 88 that were still killed that year? Let’s go tell their parents that we’re celebrating. You have to have a fundamental view that one is too many.”