D.C. police Chief Robert Contee
Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee Credit: Darrow Montgomery/File

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In the aftermath of Friday’s shooting in Van Ness, where a gunman sprayed bullets into a nearby private school, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced a new crime-fighting partnership at a news briefing yesterday. As part of a “violent crime impact team,” the MPD will further cement a partnership between D.C.’s police force, the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and the Drug Enforcement Agency to get illegal guns off the streets.

Collaborating with ATF has provided gun intel essential for pursuing federal firearm violators in the District, Special Agent in Charge of the ATF Washington Charlie Patterson said. Partnership with federal agencies recently helped close fentanyl overdose cases that plagued Southwest, Police Chief Robert Contee said. The extended partnership will give MPD more flexibility to hone in on areas “where we see acute issues popping up” and leverage larger agencies’ resources to help with investigations, Contee said. 

Some District residents watching the briefing online voiced concerns about bringing in federal agents to “take over DC streets,” warning city leaders “not to over militarize DC” over a national gun control issue. Others brought up what they see as disparities between the level of response from District leaders to the Van Ness shooting in a wealthy Ward 3 neighborhood and their relatively toned-down reaction to prevalent gun violence east of the Anacostia River.

When asked how this partnership, which focuses on illegal guns, would help in a Van Ness situation involving legally obtained firearms, Contee said the collaboration could help combat gun violence and dedicate more resources to investigations, illegal guns or not. 

Contee also gave additional details from the investigation surrounding the shooting on Friday that injured four people, sent schools into lockdown, and triggered a manhunt for the gunman, Raymond Spencer

• About five hours before he opened fire from his fifth-floor apartment, Spencer bought two frozen meals at the Giant Food supermarket nearby and took them back to his place. 

• Around midnight the night before the shooting, surveillance footage caught Spencer rolling a suitcase into his Van Ness apartment.

• Spencer fired more than 200 rounds at a school and vehicles below his apartment. Police found 800 additional rounds of ammo and six firearms, including four long guns. Three of the four long guns were fully automatic. 

• Police also found parts to assemble three additional firearms and thousands more rounds of ammo in his Fairfax apartment. He didn’t purchase the firearms all at once. 

• Spencer indiscriminately fired at vehicles and buildings, including the Edmund Burke School. Contee could not say whether the gunman targeted the private school for a particular reason.

• Spencer barricaded the door to his apartment with a household appliance and had placed a camera outside the door so he could see anyone approaching.

• He shot and killed himself as officers began to force their way into the apartment.

• Spencer moved into his Fairfax apartment in February 2021. He moved into the Van Ness apartment in January 2022.  

• Spencer briefly served in the U.S. Coast Guard and was discharged after a few months. He attended Wheaton High School in Montgomery County until 2016.

In a Facebook post on August 20, 2016, the Montgomery County recreation department reported that Spencer became disoriented after swimming laps in Wheaton-Glenmont Pool at the end of his shift as a lifeguard, the Post reports. While getting out of the water, he fell back into the pool. A lifeguard and a pool aide who rescued Spencer found he had no pulse and wasn’t breathing; another lifeguard and a firefighter gave him CPR, according to the Facebook post. Spencer eventually regained consciousness after he was taken to Suburban Hospital. 

D.C. police still don’t know Spencer’s motive for the shooting. MPD is asking that anyone who has interacted with Spencer over the past year and a half call the tip line at (202) 727-9099.

—Ambar Castillo (tips? acastillo@washingtoncitypaper.com)

Credit: Darrow Montgomery/FILE

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