Of the 10 current and former city wards arrested on murder charges since The Washington Times concluded an analysis of a year's worth of killings connected to this population of youths, the case of 19-year-old Kwan Kearney, charged in two homicides a week apart, is perhaps the most chilling.
Multiple sources confirmed for The Times that both Kearney and 19-year-old Jamal Wilson were actively in the custody of the city at the time police say Kearney fatally shot Wilson through the heart on Nov. 14. Kearney was charged on Nov. 16.
A day later, police charged another man, 19-year-old Jeremy Risper, in connection with Wilson's killing. Risper also is a ward of the city.
But then last Tuesday, with Kearney already in custody, police charged the city ward in the Nov. 8 homicide of a 17-year-old high school student named Joseph Alonzo Sharps Jr. - a killing that sources tell The Times occurred the day Kearney was released from jail on charges unrelated to the recent spate of violence.
Kearney's multiple arrests on murder charges and the fact that he, Risper and Wilson all were wards of the D.C. Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) shows the intertwined nature of the violence that enshrouds the city's committed youth.
Kearney, of the 1200 block of Oates Street in the Trinidad section of Northeast, was indicted in August 2009 for unlawful use of an automobile and fleeing police. He pleaded guilty in March and was sentenced to three months in jail and two years of probation, and he was required to submit to drug testing and treatment, court records show.
He was sentenced in September to 45 days in jail for assaulting a police officer in July 2009. He had been released only hours before when he had a chance encounter with Sharps, a senior at Spingarn High School. Sharps had finished his homework and walked with a friend down the street to buy candy bars at about 8:45 p.m., police said. It was a frequent trip for the 17-year-old, according to his parents, who said their son was a fastidious student, ambitious and college-bound.
Along the way, Sharps and his friend were laughing and joking. On the 1300 block of Holbrook Street, about four blocks from his house, they caught the attention of a passing group of young men, Kearney among them. The men may have felt slighted, thinking the jokes were aimed at them, police said. A brief confrontation ensued. It ended when a gun was drawn. Sharps was fatally shot. His friend also was shot, but his wounds were not life-threatening.
Police said on Saturday that another youth, 19-year-old Larnell Allen, also had been arrested in connection with Sharps' killing.
When Kearney was charged last week with Sharps' slaying, he already was in jail, charged with killing Wilson. Police said they found Wilson's body while responding to a report of a shooting in the unit block of P Street in Northwest at about 12:30 a.m. on Nov. 14.
The criminal complaint says that Kearney and Risper each were armed with semiautomatic handguns in the early-morning hours that Sunday when they confronted Wilson, of the 100 block of Q Street in Northwest. They chased him on foot him into the unit block of P Street and shot him, police say.
Police were interviewing Risper, who was running from the scene, when Kearney appeared and asked officers why they were talking to his friend. Risper claimed he had heard the shots and told police how close they had come to hitting his head.
But witnesses said they had seen two men get out of a car on Q Street in Northeast - one of them wearing a rolled up ski mask around his head - and ask, "Where's 'Mal?" referring to Wilson, who was there with a group of associates.
Surveillance cameras caught images of Kearney and Risper chasing Wilson across North Capitol Street, into an alley and out onto the unit block of P Street Northwest, where police say Kearney fired the fatal shot.
Police said Wilson also was armed at the time.
Wilson, a DYRS ward, had multiple prior arrests and was known to youth-outreach workers as a one-time "shot caller" who had lately been influential in "squashing beefs" among other teenagers. He left some with the impression he was no longer engaged in criminal activity.
News of Wilson's killing - and the arrests of Kearney and Risper - rocked the administration of DYRS. Interim Director Robert Hildum issued an agency-wide memo Wednesday addressing what he described as "yet another tragedy" for the agency:
"Managing troubled youth is challenging work," he wrote, "requiring everything within us professionally and often emotionally. However, it is and will continue to be complicated by a host of unforeseen issues related to a youth's background, including their living environment, parental supervision, their own mental health issues, and even those of their family members.
"I wanted you to know that I recognize and appreciate your continued and constant service to our youth, and I ask that you continue to work hard and tirelessly as we continue to improve our agency."
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