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An angry Norman Williams stood outside Metropolitan Police Headquarters on Thursday afternoon holding a photo of his late son, Jordan Howe.
About an hour earlier, Williams says, he received a call from the U.S. Attorney’s office: “I want to tell you something before you see it in the news,” Williams recalls the caller saying, “they’re releasing the 14 year old.”
The news had been trickling out all day to Williams and parents of the other victims in a string of deadly shootings last month.
A case of “mistaken identity” is how detectives explained to Nardyne Jefferies, mother of fatally shot 16-year-old Brishell Jones, their decision to dismiss all charges against one of the suspects arrested in connection with deadly drive-by shooting in Washington Highlands on March 30. Police believe the killings occurred in response to another murder (that of Williams’ son Howe) just eight days earlier.
When the boy saw the officers, the source said, he put his hands in the air. He did so, apparently, not because he had been involved in the shooting but because he was an absconder from the juvenile justice system in an earlier criminal case, and he assumed that police had come to arrest him, according to the source.
Outraged parents gathered outside the police building late Thursday afternoon awaiting Chief Cathy Lanier and Mayor Adrian Fenty‘s official announcement about the dropped charges. At first, the press conference was scheduled to take place outside police headquarters; later, the location moved inside. The continual shifting of the setting seemed to only rouse suspicion among the victims’ families.
“They’re stalling,” Jefferies told City Desk. “They don’t want to come out.”
Standing alongside the victims’ kin, Rev. Anthony Motley, a candidate for D.C. Council, told members of the media that any reporter entering the building would be barred from speaking with the families in the future. With reporters then refusing to go inside, officials moved the press conference back outside.
UPDATE: At about 5:45 p.m., Mayor Fenty, Chief Lanier and Attorney General Peter Nickles appeared outside to make the official announcement.
Fenty described the March 30 shooting as among the most violent in D.C. history. He commended the police for an “amazing” job on the case and indicated that detectives have made “significant progress” in their investigation.
Nickles criticized the media, pointing to the Examiner in particular (City Desk had reprinted the Examiner’s reference), for releasing the name of the juvenile suspect, who he then identified as Malik Carter, 14. Nickles insisted that Carter was “not the driver of the vehicle” as previously believed.
Chief Lanier called Carter’s prior arrest “well justified” given the “chaotic scene” of the crime, which involved a footchase in the dark. She added that fingerprints ultimately cleared the teen in the case.
Lanier also announced the arrest of two additional adult suspects in the case, without providing names, and added that police are on the lookout for yet another.
“We are looking for an individual and he knows we are looking for him,” she says, further recommending that the suspect turn himself in.
EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this article misspelled Attorney General Peter Nickles’ name. The editor regrets the error.—Chris Shott