- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 13, 2000

A 77-year-old great-grandmother was shot and killed by gang gunfire in Southeast yesterday as she was finishing her daily walk just 100 yards from her apartment, police said.

Grace Edwards was walking up the hill in the 3400 block of 10th Place SE in the Congress Park neighborhood at about 6:45 a.m. when two rival groups one in a car, the other on the sidewalk opened fire at each other.

Mrs. Edwards was hit by at least one bullet and pronounced dead at D.C. General Hospital at 7:12 a.m., said Winston Robinson, commander of the D.C. police 7th District.

The Metropolitan Police Department was expected to arrest a person on a charge of accessory to murder late yesterday, Cmdr. Robinson said.

That person was questioned yesterday afternoon, he said.

D.C. police also were close to arresting at least one other person involved in the shooting, Cmdr. Robinson said.

Officers canvassing the neighborhood known for sporadic gunfire and drug sales found a rented vehicle used by one group two blocks from the shooting.

Investigators recovered "numerous" 9 mm shells. Neighbors said they heard at least five shots, and one bullet went through the window of McGoney Elementary School nearby.

Police believe Mrs. Edwards was not a target and had not determined if drugs or gang membership were factors in the shooting.

Detectives were pursuing other suspects and police asked eyewitnesses and anyone with information to contact police.

D.C. police are offering $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killer, Cmdr. Robinson said.

"She should have been safe enough to walk the street. She was in her own neighborhood, her community and she was an innocent victim of careless violence," Cmdr. Robinson said.

Neighbors said several residents in the 3400 block of 10th Place SE witnessed the shooting, but were afraid to come forward.

"I know there were eyewitnesses, but they won't talk to police because all you do is wind up being dead," said Kim Chukwuemeka, 39, who lives in the apartment building next door to Mrs. Edwards.

Robert Sanders, who shared an apartment with Mrs. Edwards and helped care for her since 1991, was angry as he placed Mrs. Edwards' clothes and letters in bags yesterday afternoon.

"They need to find the guy who did this," Mr. Sanders, 71, said. "There were a lot of eyewitnesses, and no one will say a damn thing about it."

Mr. Sanders ran to the window in Mrs. Edwards' room when he heard shots. He saw Mrs. Edwards on the grass and a car roaring up the street.

Barely clothed, he ran outside, but police officers told everyone to go inside. When he got dressed and returned, an ambulance had already taken Mrs. Edwards to the hospital.

Mrs. Edwards left behind a son and daughter, four grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

After suffering a stroke several years ago, Mrs. Edwards walked every morning to stay healthy. She always left at 6:30 a.m. and was back by 7:15 a.m. because the street was safest then, relatives said.

Family members, neighbors and police described Mrs. Edwards as a friendly woman who refused to leave her longtime neighborhood and always had time to listen to others' problems.

The 7th District patrol officers whom she knew by name and often called to report suspicious vehicles were "devastated by her death," Cmdr. Robinson said.

"She was living a good life and just trying to make it, and everybody in the neighborhood loved her," Shanta Smith, 29, a granddaughter of Mrs. Edwards said.

"She loved life," said granddaughter Jacqueline A. Miller, 24. "She would give you the shirt off her back if you needed it."

As angry as Mrs. Edwards' relatives were, Miss Smith made a simple plea to her grandmother's killer.

"I hope and pray for whoever did this just turn yourself in. It will be on your conscience."

Anyone with information about the crime should call 7th District detectives at 202/698-1276 or 202/698-1260.

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