- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Five men convicted of a series of retaliatory shootings in March 2010 that killed five and injured another nine people in Southeast Washington were handed lengthy prison terms Tuesday, with three of the men sentenced to life in prison with no opportunity for release.

During the sentencing in D.C. Superior Court, some survivors of the South Capitol Street shootings and family members of those who were gunned down asked for justice or wished for vengeance as they spoke in court.

Others just asked why.

“I just want to know why you did it,” said Michelle Nelson, mother of Tavon Nelson, one of the five killed during the eight-day span of violence. “What did he do that was so bad you had to kill him?”

From the five defendants — brothers Sanquan and Orlando Carter, Jeffrey Best, Robert Bost and Lamar Williams — they got no answers. But some said they got at least a small opportunity for closure.

“I don’t want to keep fighting you all in my dreams no more,” said victim Tavon Lambert, who sobbed as he spoke. “I can go to bed now, and I can sleep now that you all are gone forever.”

Judge Ronna Beck sentenced Orlando Carter, Best and Bost to life in prison without parole. Sanquan Carter was sentenced to 54 years and Williams to 30 years in prison. In deciding the sentences, Judge Beck said she reviewed each man’s criminal history as well as the role each played in the three separate shootings.
Nathaniel Simms also was involved in the shootings but pleaded guilty and testified against the men at trial. He will be sentenced in October.

The March 30, 2010, mass shooting in the 4000 block of South Capitol Street, which targeted a group of young people returning from a funeral, was the culmination of a back-and-forth gun battle that arose out of the theft of a fake gold bracelet, authorities said.

Jordan Howe, 20, was killed and two others wounded in a March 22 shooting outside an apartment at 1333 Alabama Ave. SE. During a small party there, Sanquan Carter took off the bracelet while having sex with a girl.

A friend of the girl’s took the jewelry and when Sanquan Carter couldn’t find it, he called his brother for backup.
Orlando Carter, Simms and Best went to the party and opened fire with several guns, some of them obtained from Williams. Howe’s shooting prompted a retaliatory attack by his friends that injured Orlando Carter the next day.

Sanquan Carter was in jail by that time, but the attack on his brother provoked Orlando Carter and the others to strike back with the March 30 attacks on South Capitol Street, authorities said. Many of those gathered at the time of the shooting were returning from Howe’s funeral. The drive-by shooting on South Capitol Street claimed the lives of Brishell Jones, 16, Davaughn Boyd, 18, and William Jones III, 19. Best and Bost also fatally shot 17-year-old Tavon Nelson as they attempted to obtain yet another gun for the planned drive-by shooting.

“A lot of violence in this city results from someone feeling disrespected and having access to a firearm,” Judge Beck said Tuesday. “This is how this terrible tragedy started.”

Though Sanquan Carter was involved only in the first shooting, Judge Beck noted it was the fact he “had so little regard for human life” that he wanted to shoot someone over a “trinket” that kicked off the violence.

Williams was not present for any of the shootings, yet Judge Beck said he was culpable because he provided weapons that he thought would be used for revenge.

Williams maintained his innocence when he addressed the court Tuesday.

“Even though I have been found guilty does not mean I am guilty,” he said, offering his condolences to those affected by the shootings.

Defense attorneys for the men argued for sentences of 60 years or less.

“There have been enough lives lost already,’ said Bost’s attorney, Todd Baldwin.

Orlando Carter’s defense attorney said he plans to appeal the conviction.

At the start of the daylong sentencing hearing, which was an emotional affair that packed the courtroom with friends and family members of the victims, U.S. Attorney Michael Britton listed off those harmed in the shootings, detailing their injuries.

“There were 14 in all, though it feels like many more,” he said.

Kevin Attaway, 29, who was shot in the head and hip, suffered a traumatic brain injury and now functions as a small child, Mr. Britton said. He likely will require medical care for the rest of his life. His brother, Jamal Blakeney, also was injured in the March 30 shooting and transported to a different hospital, making their mother choose which son to visit in the hospital first. The night of the shooting she chose to see Mr. Attaway, who she was initially told wasn’t expected to survive through the night.

As family members spoke at the hearing, some sobbed while others kept their composure, reading carefully scripted words from folded pieces of paper.

“These repeat offenders, please stop allowing them to use the court as a revolving door,” Brishell Jones’ mother, Nardyne Jefferies, said in measured words.

“You just see emptiness, hollowness, no hope,” she said of the five men. “You just can’t rehabilitate serial killers.”

The trial of the five men lasted for two months, and the jury deliberated for eight days before reaching a verdict.

For many of those in the courtroom, the reality of living either with their injuries or without their loved ones still hangs over their heads.

“I’m numb right now,” said Shelly Proctor, mother of Williams Jones, who was killed, and JaBarie Smith, who was injured. “My son’s not back. Nothing’s changed.”