WASHINGTON - On Thursday, the D.C. Police Chief and Mayor faced serious questions after 12 people were shot in the District the day before. One of those homicide scenes on O St. NW by North Capitol St., unfolded outside of a senior home and left kids at a nearby charter school rushing for cover on their first day of class.
D.C Police identified the two men killed in the Unit block of O St NW as 43-year-old Rashad Johnson and 53-year-old James Johnson.
D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee III walked back comments previously made by his Executive Assistant Chief, that the mass shooting was believed to have been drug-related and that there is a known "open air drug market" operating in the area.
The chief noted the shooting on the Unit block of Quincy Place later that evening is now believed to be connected and may have been possible retaliation for the O St. NW shooting.
Chief Contee described the O St. shooting as targeted but would not describe the matter as a "turf war." He also noted that unlike in other shootings, the victims in this case are older in age.
Facing questions on why police have not been able to shut down the open air market, the Chief told reporters in some of his comments, "If that’s what’s happening over there, my commitment to the community is this, we’re going to do everything we can to make sure it is shut down."
Those quickly arrested in the Quincy Place shooting include: 29-year-old Kharee Jackson, of Northwest, DC, 36-year-old Pernell Jackson, of Northeast, DC, and 35-year-old Charles Turner, of Oxon Hill, MD.
The O St. and Quincy Place shootings were just two of several acts of violence in the District on Wednesday.
One day later, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser was in Southeast DC celebrating a graduation for violence interrupters who attended the District’s first ever DC Peace Academy. This is a new public-local government partnership that took several already working violence interrupters, and put them through enhanced training.
When asked about what evidence there is to show violence interruption is a viable option, the mayor admitted evidence is "limited."
"I hesitate to say it’s you know, it’s 100% right … other strategies that we have to correct but what know is that they are engaging people who are known to use guns," said the Mayor.
On questions regarding frustrations and feelings violence interruption is too late or not working fast enough, the Mayor told FOX 5, "I can’t go out to the public and say we have this amount of money and we have a hiring spree and we have the wrong people to do the work. And so it is taking a while to making sure we have the right people to do the work, but I feel committed to doing that. But I also know it’s not a one size fit’s all strategy."
The mayor also acknowledged the city has been making major investments into violence interruption since 2018. This year, the mayor invested $9.6 million in federal funds to violence interruption and prevention.
Kareem Watts is one of the DC Peace Academy graduates to cross the stage. Watts told FOX 5 he grew up in D.C., experienced violence and prison, but has never seen the level of shootings the city is seeing now.
He described those engaging in this violence as comparing it to a game like, "Grand Theft Auto."
"It’s really no logic behind it, " said Watts, "they tell you look at the score, they speaking murders, you know, like five or two, but that’s the game. Keep score."
"This training is one of the first trainings that I’ve been to that had so much based on trauma … and I think that’s a plus because – by the time – like a lot of times even when your car break up, your car messes up, go to the shop, they’ve got to trouble shoot to find out what’s going on."
The DC Peace Academy was started by the group, Peace for DC, whose founder has criticized the mayor’s response to gun violence in the past. That founder has been working to help the city find solutions ever since his own son was killed by a stray bullet in 2018.
The fatal O St. shooting took place outside of a senior home and reportedly sent children at the nearby Mundo Verde Bilingual Public Charter School running for cover.
The school issued this statement:
The excitement and joy of the first day of school for Mundo Verde’s J.F. Cook campus was shattered early this afternoon by a nearby shooting on O Street that left two individuals dead and at least three others wounded. While our staff performed emergency procedures incredibly well, and our 560 students remained safe, a situation like this leaves students, staff, and families understandably frightened. In our nation’s capital, gun violence has killed 237 individuals and wounded another 703 since August 24, 2021, according to Gun Violence Archive.
We are a school community that is diverse by design and grounded in what we call ESPICA: our habits of community stewardship, which include inquiry. In that spirit, we teach our students to think deeply, to question and keep questioning superficial answers. Yet, how do we explain that what is shocking occurs regularly?
Whether on the street, in a school, or in a grocery store, gun violence is a plague in our local community, and an indicator of both entrenched racism and governance gone horribly wrong. While a shock to some, shootings are an all too commonplace and deeply painful occurrence in neighborhoods across Washington, DC. Why does this uniquely American form of violence persist?