WASHINGTON - Police said detectives are investigating a possible connection between two murders that happened just hours apart in Southeast D.C. on Monday.
Tayvon Cummings, 22, was shot and killed just before 1 p.m. in an alley off Benning Road nearby a gas station. Less than three hours later, 45-year-old Tracey Cooper was killed just a few blocks away as she walked toward the front door of her home on 49th Street.
Some in the community said Cooper's death may have been payback for the murder of Cummings and an ongoing feud between two crews that police believe may also be connected to a shootout nearby in the 4900 block of B Street last August that left two men dead.
A longtime friend of Cooper left flowers at the front door of her home on Tuesday. He did not want to be identified, but told FOX 5 he thinks this was a murder with a message and carried out to punish someone else.
"Yeah, I believe that," he said. "Whoever went in there and got him. If they couldn't get him, they would get somebody else."
He believes that Cooper was collateral damage in an ongoing fight.
"Yeah, she didn't know about it so she didn't see it coming," he said.
Ward 7 has now recorded 20 homicides so far this year compared to just eight last year.
Since Monday night, friends on social media have been posting condolence messages for Cummings. When he was shot Monday afternoon, a witness told police he was on his knees firing at someone else, and after he was hit, someone picked up the gun that dropped from his hand and took off.
The shooting attracted a large crowd to the Benco Shopping Center across the street where a wave of friends and family arrived after hearing the news. Some collapsed in tears while others had to be held back from running across the street to the scene.
Cummings and Cooper were two of five people shot within a four-hour span in the city on Monday.
Although the violence may be shocking, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said overall violent crime is down.
"Last year, this district won overall crime reduction," Lanier said. They had a 16 percent reduction in violent crime and they are already down violent crime three percent this year. So it's a little bit of a continuation of what we saw in certain areas last year and that the overall assaults with guns are down."
The police chief was concerned with what happened on Monday and she ordered reinforcements in from other districts for a higher police presence in this area.