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Last night at 6:45 p.m., Keith Jarrell convened a neighborhood round table at MPD fourth district headquarters to discuss the Petworth shootings with high-ranking police officials. Chief of Police Cathy Lanier, Councilmembers Muriel Bowser and Phil Mendelson, and Lieutenant Will Manlapaz of the homicide unit addressed a packed room of concerned citizens in an occasionally contentious, mainly symbolic gathering.
“The last three or four days have been pretty gruesome,” Jarrell said in his opening remarks. Fourth District Commander Linda Brown agreed, calling the past weekend “a little brutal.”
“We’ve saturated the area,” Brown said. “We’ve questioned a number of people, and we’re trying to weed through what testimony is true and what’s wrong.”
Brown also expressed confidence that forensic analysis of the 9mm shells found on the Georgia and Crittenden scenes would lead to a more definitive link, and alluded to a meeting with Bowser to ensure maintaining that police presence in and around the scenes.
Officers present also confirmed a second fatality from the weekend: a body found in the park on 13th and Emerson Streets, NW. In the Emerson case, though, police say there is no sign of suspicious activity. We’re still waiting on autopsy results.
“All indications point to a natural death,” said Lt. Jude Waddy of the fourth district vice unit. “There was no trauma to the body.”
Manlapaz offered a few new details on the weekend’s violence. The victim gunned down on the 4500 block of Georgia on Saturday night around 9 p.m., Manlapaz said, had been in and out of jail, and was arrested most recently on the 800 block of Crittenden.
“Based on geography and the people we’ve seen involved, we’re looking at neighborhood rivalries,” Manlapaz said, stating with “reasonable certainty” that the shootings on Georgia and Crittenden constituted “retaliatory violence” on the part of dealers seeking more operable turf.
Manlapaz also offered qualified optimism, observing that of sixteen homicides in the fourth district since january, “four are closed and two are on their way.” (Eleven of the sixteen, he says, involved firearms. The average age of the victims was twenty-four.)
Mendelson, chair of the D.C. Council’s committee on public safety and the judiciary (on which Bowser also serves), discussed a three-pronged legislative approach to handgun crime in light of District of Columbia v. Heller: clarifying the law vis-à-vs operable and inoperable weapons, relegislating gun registration requirements, and looking into a proposal by the mayor to make it a crime to discharge a firearm.
The MPD has pulled almost 3,000 guns off the street so far this year.
Mendelson also discussed using programs like Gunstat to identify “cracks in the system” that enable repeat offenders.
One woman expressed outrage with recent cuts to the MPD budget. (In an email to me, Jason Shedlock, Special Assistant to Mendelson, characterized them as “spending freezes.”) Another woman complained that police were unresponsive to a series of calls on Saturday.
“At 1 a.m. on Saturday there were shots fired in my yard, and nobody showed up except for the Hands Together Neighborhood Club,” she said. “We saw gunflashes. It was terrifying. And not one officer came until the next afternoon.”
“I am not a very happy taxpayer,” she added. “And I do not want this neighborhood to turn into the wild wild West.”
Lieutenant Brown promised to investigate the slow response and to get back to the woman “before the evening’s up.”
Citing her tenure as Fourth District Commander, Lanier countered complaints from residents that the Marlboro block constitutes an undersurveilled, “hot” zone.
“Marlboro is a quiet street,” she insisted. “When I was here, Marlboro was the test. It’s a short block, and very quiet. If you’re a rookie cop, and you know where Marlboro is, then you’re good enough to be certified.”
Lanier reminded residents that the MPD presence wasn’t only about the uniforms. Equally important are the plainclothesmen.
“We have to have visible uniforms to send the message,” she said. “But when you don’t see the response, it’s because you’re not supposed to see the response. The vice unit’s all over that area. We’re making strong headway—and you’ll see the results of that very shortly.”
Several residents objected that a visible police presence only displaces the dealers and results in fresh pockets of territorial violence. Lanier acknowledged the pattern.
“Every time we have a success, we have a new problem,” Lanier said.
MORE FROM PETWORTH:
TheANC 4-C November meeting is tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. in the community room of the MPD Patrol Services Bureau on Shepherd Street.
The cops are touting their new anonymous text-tip number: 50411 (“Give 5-0 the 411,” as they say). 1-888-919-CRIME remains the phone tip-off line.
Lt. Waddy is taking drug-related tip calls at work (202-715-7501) and on his cell (202-497-1401).