By Nafeesa Syeed
WASHINGTON — A possible feud among neighborhood crews, three shootings and five fatalities have authorities in the nation's capital trying to stop more paybacks in an area known for drugs and violence just 7 miles from the White House.
Tuesday night, a crowd sprayed with bullets in a drive-by shooting that killed four and wounded five had just returned from the funeral of man slain nearby. A 20-year-old man, who was wounded in a third shooting, is a suspect in the other two, authorities said Wednesday.
Police were trying to gather information to see if retaliation is planned and prevent it, said Assistant Police Chief Peter Newshan. He said neighborhood crews are more loosely associated than gangs.
Police Chief Cathy Lanier called the drive-by - the worst shooting in D.C. in at least 16 years - an egregious type of retaliation.
"It's ridiculous and the community is tired of it," she said. "There is no excuse for it."
Two men and a 14-year-old boy accused of driving the minivan from which the bullets were fired were charged with first-degree murder. One of the suspects, Orlando Carter, also has been charged with second-degree murder in the March 22 shooting of Jordan Howe, whose funeral was earlier Tuesday.
On March 23, Carter was shot in the head and shoulder hours after his brother was arrested in Howe's death, court documents said.
Friends and relatives of the drive-by victims returned Wednesday to the scene, where a blood-covered gauze package lay on a sidewalk that smelled of bleach. Teddy bears and candles were by the steps leading to the apartment building where the crowd was gathered when the shooting broke out.
The building's owner, William Cheek, said he had just walked across the street to buy a lottery ticket when he heard gunshots around 7:30 p.m. and saw many in the group on the ground. His grandson was among the six men and three women shot.
"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. Court documents identified the victims as 17-year-old Tavon Nelson, 19-year-old William Jones III, 16-year-old Brishell Jones and 18-year-old Devaughn Boyd. The wounded were not identified because they are witnesses, police said.
"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.
Carter and Nathaniel Simms, 26, were arraigned and ordered held without bail. The teen also faces a murder charge and a family judge ordered him held at a juvenile facility, saying he was a danger and a risk for fleeing. He has nine convictions dating to 2005.
Defense lawyers for Carter and Simms argued that court documents didn't list probable cause or what role the two are accused of in the latest shootings.
Carter's brother, Sanquan Carter, was charged with murder in Howe's slaying. Court documents say Howe was killed over a missing gold-colored bracelet that apparently belonged to Sanquan. A witness said Orlando Carter was with his brother and was seen shooting a gun at the time of Howe's death, according to court documents.
In Tuesday's shooting, police said they arrested the three after officers chased the silver van into Prince George's County in Maryland and back into Washington and saw an AK-47 type weapon thrown out. Other weapons were found inside.
Ross Rauls said he had been to Howe's funeral with his friends and later 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 one of those killed, DeVaughn Boyd, was his cousin.
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.
Washington reported 143 homicides last year, the fewest in nearly 50 years.
Mayor Adrian Fenty - who cut short a family vacation to return to the city - said he spoke with the mothers of three of the shooting victims and said that they were "deeply broken."
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"Everybody knows what a tragedy this is in our city," he said.