At 15 months old, Carmelo Duncan is the District’s youngest homicide victim in what has been the deadliest year in 15 years.
Five months ago, 11-year-old Davon McNeal was fatally shot just before celebrating the Fourth of July at a neighborhood cookout. And a few months before that, 13-year-old Malachi Lukes was shot and killed near the Shaw-Howard University Metro Station four days before his birthday. As of Dec. 4, police say 11 of the 187 homicide victims this year have been juveniles.
These are all tragedies, as is every murder in the city.
Shortly after 9:35 p.m. on Wednesday, at least 10 shots were fired at a vehicle driving along Southern Avenue in Southeast D.C., according to the Post. Police believe at least two people opened fire at the vehicle where Carmelo was strapped in a car seat in the back. His 8-year-old brother sat next to him. His father was driving. The shooting appeared to be targeted.
“He was the best baby ever,” Taquana Duncan, Carmelo’s mother, tells the Post. The boy’s grandmother, Tiara, says he liked to dance. Carmelo was too young to know much else, making the taking of his life all the more devastating.
The Metropolitan Police Department is offering a reward of up to $60,000 for information that leads to an arrest and conviction. The public is advised to text 50411 or call (202) 727-9099. MPD is searching for a gray SUV with tinted windows that was seen speeding away from the scene.
“There are simply no words for the sense of outrage that we should all feel,” said Mayor Muriel Bowser during a Thursday press conference.
When asked what the root cause of this year’s homicide rate is, outgoing Police Chief Peter Newsham was quick to respond: “There are too many illegal firearms in the District of Columbia.”
This is a common refrain for Newsham. He’s made removing illegal firearms from the streets a focus of his time as police chief. But not everyone would name illegal guns as the root cause. “You can have an illegal gun, you still gotta pull the trigger,” Ward 7 Councilmember Vince Gray told City Paper in January. He and others believe unequal access to opportunity—deriving from inadequate education, health care, and housing—contribute to gun violence. The coronavirus pandemic did not abate D.C.’s rising homicide count but did exacerbate the opportunity gaps. Now, the question is how will lawmakers respond?
For deeper reading, I wrote a cover story at the beginning of the year about why homicides are rising in D.C. And last year City Paper wrote remembrances of many of the people who died by homicide in 2019.
—Amanda Michelle Gomez (tips? firstname.lastname@example.org)
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By Amanda Michelle Gomez (tips? email@example.com)
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- Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt will release cluster data when we’re ready to understand it. [Twitter]
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