Witness: Crowd targeted in DC drive-by had just returned from funeral of shooting victim

By Nafeesa Syeed, AP
Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Witness: Crowd shot in DC had been to funeral

WASHINGTON — The crowd of people targeted in a drive-by shooting that killed four and wounded five others had just returned from the funeral of a victim of another recent shooting nearby, a witness said Wednesday.

Two men and a 14-year-old boy police said was driving the minivan involved were arrested and being charged in Tuesday night’s shooting, the worst in D.C. in at least 16 years. The minivan pulled up to the crowd of people in front of an apartment building and stopped briefly. Shots were fired, then the van sped off, police said.

Authorities haven’t said whether the drive-by was related to another shooting about a mile and a half away March 22.

Both shootings occurred in a neighborhood known for drugs and related violence about 7 miles from the White House. As police investigated the latest shooting, friends and relatives of the victims returned to the scene, where a blood-covered gauze package lay on a sidewalk that smelled of bleach. Four teddy bears were placed by steps leading to the apartment building where the crowd had gathered a day earlier.

The owner of the apartment building, William Cheek, said he had just walked across the street to buy a lottery ticket when he heard gunshots about 7:30 p.m. and saw many of the 15 or so people had fallen to the ground. His 20-year-old grandson was among the victims.

“I saw him breathe his last breath,” Cheek said, a tear running down his face. “He was shot in the head.”

Cheek didn’t want to identify his grandson but said he was enrolled in a GED class, played basketball and hoped to become a long-distance bus driver.

“They got shot right on my porch,” said Cheek, a case manager at a local community center with programs on substance abuse, job training and anger management.

Neighbor Victoria Jones said young people in the area often go to Cheek for support and gather in front of his house. Her 18-year-old son lost his best friend in the shooting.

Police said they chased the van into Prince George’s County in Maryland and back into Washington and saw an AK-47 type weapon thrown from the van.

Orlander Carter, 20, and Nathaniel Simms, 26, were to be arraigned on murder charges Wednesday. The boy also faced a murder charge and a family judge ordered him held at a juvenile facility, saying he was a danger to himself and others.

It was not immediately clear whether the boy and men had attorneys.

Police said the victims were six men and three women. All were in their 20s and 30s, except for one teenager, officials said.

The D.C. councilman who represents the area, former Mayor Marion Barry, said a dispute between “crews” — neighborhood groups that are not as organized as gangs — led to the shooting.

The crowd in front of Cheek’s house had just returned from a funeral for Jordan Howe, who was killed on March 22 over a bracelet, police said. Witnesses said Sanquan Carter, 19, was upset about a stolen bracelet and began patting down people in the neighborhood before he shot Howe.

Witnesses reported Carter and at least one other person firing weapons.

Carter has been charged with second-degree murder. His attorney had no comment.

It was unclear whether he is related to Orlander Carter.

Ross Rauls, 26, said he had been to Howe’s funeral and went with a group of friends to a wooded area afterward where they shared memories of their friend. He said he headed to the gym, while the others went to Cheek’s building.

“It’s sad when the last thing you say to them is ‘I’ll see you later,’” he said.

He said the young men shot were not gang members.

“They weren’t that type of people. It wasn’t gang-related,” Rauls said. “It’s a classic case of the wrong place, the wrong time.”

Rico Scott said his cousin, 19-year-old DeVaughn Boyd, was one of those killed.

Boyd was a high school senior who liked to go to the mall and the movies with friends, as well as parties that featured go-go music, a mix of soul, funk and Latin styles, Scott said.

It was at least the worst shooting in D.C. since 1994, when four men fired into a crowd at the O Street Market, killing a teenager and wounding eight other people. A man was convicted of orchestrating the shooting to retaliate against people who had shot him in the stomach and robbed him several weeks earlier. He believed the people who had attacked him often visited the market.

Washington reported 143 homicides last year, the fewest in nearly 50 years.

Associated Press writers Matthew Barakat, Jessica Gresko, Sarah Karush and Brett Zongker contributed to this report.

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