Gun Violence


On Your Mind: A Shooting Near U Street

Flickr: IntangibleArts

14th and V Streets, NW.

Shots were fired at a busy intersection near U Street today. Two men were wounded in a drive-by shooting; neither had life-threatening injuries, according to Council member Jim Graham. A woman told NBC that a stray bullet hit the window of her apartment above Busboys and Poets while she was home having lunch. A conversation about whether the shooting would have gotten as much coverage had it been in a poor neighborhood ensued on Twitter.

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“Did you have a nice Christmas?”

Flickr: Mr. T in DC

Christmas tree in Columbia Heights.

I stood at the customer service counter, wondering if anyone would notice me amid the shopping carts and baskets which surrounded me, each heaped with spurned gifts, returned merchandise that needed to be put-back. The lights were already dim in this part of the store, a testament to how slow my normally chaotic neighborhood had become due to the threat of snow. After several minutes, a tall, striking young employee approached me to ask if I needed help. I said that I needed to make a return.

Wordlessly, he rounded the carts and positioned himself behind the counter. I handed him my receipt and he scanned it, then reached for the tchotchke I was returning. He tossed it in to a giant bin behind him without looking. “$21 will go back on your card. Thank you.”

“Thank you,” I replied.

“Did you have a nice Christmas?”, he mindlessly asked.

And because I have no boundaries, I replied, “I don’t really celebrate it anymore. Some years ago, my dad went in to a coma on the 23rd of December and passed away on the 29th. We buried him on the 31st. So the holidays just haven’t been the same after that.” My cheeks were hot by the time my explanation trailed off awkwardly. I should’ve just said, “Yes, thanks for asking!” and walked out.

My answer had snapped him out of his exhaustion, haze, reverie. “That’s deep.”

“Do you think you’ll ever celebrate it again?”, he asked. I stared at him, and for the first time, I really saw him. He was too pretty for retail. He looked like he should be the supporting actor on a sitcom, the one-liner-spouting son with an easy smile, filling out a fake nuclear family on some set in L.A. I had noticed him before, but only in the most cursory way– he stood out from the other employees. While they shuffled, slouched and grumbled, his posture was flawless. While they layered tee-shirts and sagged their pants, he always wore a designer crewneck sweater and a trim, shiny belt with a giant French logo for a belt buckle. The latter could’ve been a fake, but if it was, it was a great one. No fraying threads or tarnished metal in sight. He took his appearance and his comportment seriously.

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A Vigil in Brookland for Raj Patel


Last Saturday, Raj Patel was murdered when he chanced upon a robbery happening in the corner store he managed, in Brookland. Last night, the community which appreciated him held a vigil in his memory. We Love DC was there, and unimpressed with MPD’s excuse for its absence:

Mr. Patel’s son, nephew and brother were present, and have asked that any further donations not be made to the family, but rather to Brookland causes, businesses and churches. Mr. Patel’s nephew explained that while the donations were generous and welcome, that the family knew that Mr. Patel would have wanted that money to go to the people who would need it this holiday season within the Brookland community.

I was disappointed at the lack of representation from MPD, who did not send anyone to the event. I received an email from Commander Greene of the Fifth District last night who said that they had not been made aware of the vigil, and had they known, they would have sent someone to attend and speak to the group, but that they were unaware. Given the large number of posts on area listserves, as well as flyers throughout the neighborhood announcing the event, I find it troubling they were not organically aware of the event, and would have needed an invite.

NBC 4 has more; the murder has not been solved.

“Expressing dissent through murder”

Kevin H.

Bryan Weaver has a powerful post up at Greater Greater Washington regarding Jamal Coates, gun violence and how such tragedy seems to replay itself on an endless loop.

Public officials will tell you that the crews have moved on to other parts of the city… so don’t believe your lying eyes. We have been here before, a high profile killing that grabs the up and coming part of the city. But then like collective amnesia we move on and forget.

The point being made in article after article is that last week’s murder happened in the rapidly gentrifying part of the city. But we can’t coffee-shop and bike-lane our way out of this tragedy. There are still numerous people in DC who have degenerated to the point of expressing dissent through murder and haven’t learned to disagree without becoming violently disagreeable, no matter where they live. But my hope is that the people who use those coffee shops and bike lanes can and will be the change — if they care enough to do so….

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When “you fight for them” and they still lose.

ANC Chair Bryan Weaver on U street shooting victim, Jamal Coates, who struggled to get away from the gang culture he had participated in, in his youth:

“You know somebody for 10 years, and you fight for them to move away from a certain lifestyle,” said Bryan Weaver, 40, a neighborhood activist who ran unsuccessfully this year for Ward 1′s seat on the D.C. Council.

He said Coates, who had an arrest record, belonged to the “1-7″ crew, based around 17th and Euclid streets NW in Adams Morgan. In the summer of 2009, he was among 30 young people who spent six weeks in Guatemala teaching basketball to local children with Hoops Sagrado, an organization Weaver founded that aims to encourage peaceful coexistence by exposing District youths to foreign culture.

“You have this kid by the neck, and you’re trying to wrestle him out of that lifestyle, and then suddenly something like this happens,” Weaver said.

His name was Jamal Coates

…and he was the man who died today on U Street, after the funeral of Ashley McRae. Bryan Weaver, who ran against Jim Graham for the Ward One City Council seat, knew Coates. This is what he told the Post:

“Unfortunately, it looks like a continuation of the crew violence,” said Bryan Weaver, an advisory neighborhood commissioner in the area who runs a nonprofit group, Hoops Sagrado, that helps at-risk young people…

Weaver said he knew Coates for more than 10 years. Last year, he said, Coates worked with him on community service projects in Guatemala, where he also studied Spanish and worked on conflict mediation issues.

After his return, Coates entered a GED program, held an internship with a city agency, and was working with the Shaw Family Collaborative, Weaver said.

Weaver said that he thought it “highly likely” that the shooting was connected to an ongoing crew war between groups from the Columbia Heights/Adams Morgan area and a group from the Petworth area of Northwest.

U Street Shooting: Gang Members were at Funeral

More sad information, about today’s shooting (via TBD):

Five uniformed police officers also attended the services, Ward 1 D.C. Councilmember Jim Graham said…

Graham said gang members from Columbia Heights and Adams Morgan were exchanging words during the funeral services and the taunting escalated to violence outside.

Council member Jim Graham told Mike DeBonis that in addition to the five uniformed cops, officers in plain-clothes were at the service, too. And this still happened.

One person is happy about the U Street Shooting.

I’ve had my head in my hands for most of the day, first because of frustrating WordPress issues, then because of the horrific shooting down the street from where I live (and write this blog). You’re probably already aware of the details, but if you aren’t, I’ll summarize what I’ve read at DCist, TBD and on various Twitter feeds:

- A funeral was held at Walker Memorial Baptist Church for 21-year old Ashley McRae, a Columbia Heights woman who was killed in SE last week after leaving Ibiza nightclub. Ashley worked at Commander Salamander in Georgetown and she was a student studying accounting.

- As the procession started down 13th street, a group of men opened fire on a vehicle, which crashed in to other cars and flipped upside down at 11th and U. An employee at Ben’s Chili Bowl said he saw the gunmen fleeing South.

- Some witnesses saw people fleeing the car, which was totaled.

- One person inside the car was killed, two others were shot, one of them is in critical condition.

All of this, at a funeral procession.
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