- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 20, 2008

It was a shocking and deadly spasm of shootings, even by the standards of Washington’s notorious Trinidad neighborhood.

A boy, 13, was killed early Saturday, having been shot several times within sight of his mother, who was wounded along with five other people in a span of minutes along Holbrook Street in Northeast, Metropolitan Police said.

All were shot as they were running away after being robbed at gunpoint in separate incidents by a group of several black men in a gold Dodge Intrepid with temporary Maryland tags, police said.

Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier - occasionally raising her voice at a news conference Saturday evening - called the crimes “the most cowardly acts of violence I’ve seen in my 18 years on the force.”

“Those who will drive into Trinidad and carry out violence will not be tolerated,” she said.

Chief Lanier reinstituted police checkpoints in the neighborhood as of 7 p.m. Saturday, in response to those shootings as well as the stabbing of another man in Trinidad, also early Saturday. The checkpoints were first used last month.

A second shooting death Saturday morning occurred across town on Allison Street in Northwest.

Police identified the dead teen as Alonzo Robinson. His mother, whom police did not name, was hospitalized in stable condition, as were the other Trinidad shooting victims.

The checkpoints, part of Chief Lanier’s Neighborhood Safe Zones program, were to be set up on random streets in the area, and police said they will be put in place periodically over the next five days.

Chief Lanier said police officers were “within earshot — and in some cases down the block” from the shootings. Surviving victims said the men would get out of their car, rob people walking in the neighborhood and then shoot them, sometimes several times, as they ran away.

The suspects would then get back in the car and flee.

Chief Lanier, who lives nearby, arrived at the neighborhood during the spree, she said at the news conference at 5th Police District headquarters. “I heard shots, and I think that most residents didn’t know what was happening. They probably thought it was fireworks or something,” she said.

Police chased the car thought to be used by the suspects, but did not make any arrests.

D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat, said that he had hoped several proactive police tactics, such as increased patrols and beefed up intelligence-gathering, would prevent further violence in the neighborhood.

He said his confidence in Chief Lanier has not been shaken.

“It’s clear that in this neighborhood, police presence alone doesn’t stop violence,” said Chief Lanier, explaining why checkpoints are a necessity to stop crime in Trinidad and other areas in the city that see spikes in crime. Last month, a civil liberties group filed a class-action lawsuit against the checkpoints for what the plaintiffs call an ineffective “expansion of police power … to stop individuals without any probable cause.”

Chief Lanier said she will continue to use the checkpoints. “Until a judge orders me to stop, I will do everything I can to protect the people of this neighborhood,” she said.

There have been 100 homicides citywide so far this year, roughly the same as last year. Twenty-three have occurred in the 5th District, where Trinidad is located. Last year at this time, there had been only nine homicides in that district.

In the second homicide Saturday morning, a man was found dead of an apparent gunshot wound to the head on the 900 block of Allison Street Northwest. Keith Ricardo Hines, 29, was pronounced dead at the scene. Police said that homicide was unrelated to the Trinidad violence, as was the stabbing of another man early Saturday in Trinidad.

Mr. Mendelson, who is the chairman of the council’s Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, reiterated that much of the violence throughout the city is a result of escalating gang feuds.

He said incidents are also indicative of underlying problems such as poverty and unemployment and that preventing incidents will require the city to extend services on a number of fronts and emphasize community policing.

A reward of $50,000 is being offered, twice the normal sum, for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the shooting spree.

Staff writer David Lipscomb contributed to this report.

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