- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The 2010 killing of 16-year-old Brishell Jones and two other youths in the so-called “South Capitol Street Massacre” were the result of “gross negligence, racial discrimination and indifference” by D.C. government officials and agencies, according to a lawsuit filed recently in D.C. Superior Court.

On behalf of her deceased daughter, Brishell, Nardyne Jefferies, who has pushed for legislation to improve youth supervision and health services, says in her lawsuit that the retaliatory shooting deaths that occurred on March 30, 2010, could have been avoided were it not for a “culture of action and inaction based on irresponsible judgment and decision making” by District officials.

The lawsuit names, among others, the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS), the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and the D.C Fire and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department.

The drive-by shooting, which left three dead and six injured, stemmed from a chain of events that began with the alleged theft of a bracelet belonging to Sanquan Carter, a ward of DYRS and a suspect in a related shooting. In all, the sequence of events over nine days left five dead and nine injured.

One of the victims killed in the same shooting that claimed Brishell’s life, 18-year-old Devaughn Boyd, also was under the care of DYRS, which continues to struggle with guard beatings and youth escapes from custody at the New Beginnings Youth Development Center in Laurel.

An internal report by the D.C. Office of the Attorney General (OAG), which also is named in the lawsuit, concluded last year that DYRS could have prevented Carter’s release from jail, where he was serving time for adult convictions. The report found DYRS lacking in monitoring its juvenile wards and said its “procedures and practices favor release to the community without regard to the youth’s needs, prior criminal acts or potential for re-offending.”

The lawsuit accuses the MPD and Chief of Police Cathy Lanier of failing to protect the community from “anticipated and expected” retaliatory violence after homicides in a manner that constitutes racial discrimination against the predominantly black residents of Wards 7 and 8.

It also targets Fire and EMS for an alleged failure to adequately transport Brishell to the nearest hospital and charges that the ambulance operators “chose to run personal errands” before dispatching to the scene when they first received the emergency call.

The first incident in the deadly chain of events occurred on March 21, 2010, when Carter thought someone had stolen his bracelet at a party at an apartment building in Southeast Washington and, according to the lawsuit, called his brother, Orlando, seeking revenge. The lawsuit states that Orlando Carter, along with two associates, joined his brother after midnight at the party, where they opened fire on a group, killing 20-year-old Jordan Howe and injuring two others.

Police arrested Sanquan Carter on March 23, but later that day, Orlando Carter was shot in retaliation for the previous night’s shooting, the lawsuit states. After being treated at United Medical Center in Southeast, according to the lawsuit, he began plotting revenge.

The lawsuit states that the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the MPD should have known a dangerous condition existed as long as Orlando Carter was not off the street. A week later, on March 30, 2010, after the funeral for Howe, more than a dozen youths congregated at 4022 South Capitol St. SE, where three gunmen fired into the crowd from a van, killing three, including Brishell Jones and Devaughn Boyd, and wounding six others.

Tavon Nelson, 17, also was shot and killed earlier in the day in an attempt by the assailants to obtain additional firearms, the lawsuit states.

Orlando and Sanquan Carter and two others have been charged in the Howe murder. Orlando Carter and others also have been charged in the murders of Tavon Nelson, Brishell Jones and Devaughn Boyd.

Officials at DYRS, MPD and the OAG did not respond to requests for comment. The office of D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray, who was chairman of the D.C. Council at the time of the murders but is named in the lawsuit in his current capacity, did not comment.

A nonprofit group and a related entity also were sued, but it is unclear why.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney said the office cannot comment on the pending lawsuit but expressed “our deepest condolences to Ms. Jefferies and all those who lost loved ones in the terrible violence on South Capitol Street on March 30, 2010.”

D.C. fire department spokesman Pete Piringer was not available for comment. At the time of the murders, he defended the actions of emergency services personnel and said the department “had enough resources to handle this scene in an efficient way.”