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Easter Monday event at National Zoo ends with shooting

- The Washington Times - Monday, April 21, 2014

Two people were shot Monday afternoon near the National Zoo, marking the second time in three years that an annual Easter Monday event has ended with violence.

Metropolitan Police Department Cmdr. Michael Reese said one person was hit in the left hand and the other was shot on the left arm. He said neither injury was considered life-threatening and that the incident occurred as a group of as many as 30 people were walking down Connecticut Avenue in Northwest.

The shooting, near the zoo during its annual African American Family Celebration, came as a large number of officers were already in the area.

"We were not expecting this, but we had a heavy police presence," Cmdr. Reese said in an evening press conference.

Zoo spokeswoman Annalisa Meyer said the shooting occurred at about 5:17 p.m. in "close proximity" to the zoo's Connecticut Avenue entrance.

Cmdr. Reese said police did not have any suspects. He wouldn't speculate on the motivation for the shooting, nor would he comment on whether the victims might have been targeted. He also said police had no indication that the shooting stemmed from any dispute that began at the event.

The incident briefly closed Connecticut Avenue both ways during rush hour and prompted a flurry of police activity, with patrol cars, bicycles, and officers on foot rushing to the area, where the zoo's Easter Monday event was winding down. Northbound lanes were reopened by 5:30 p.m. and southbound lanes opened 15 minutes later.

The zoo closed after the shooting, Ms. Meyer said, but those inside were told it was safe to leave.

The Easter Monday event for black families across the region grew out of a grassroots community tradition more than 100 years ago.

But in recent years, violence has marred the event.

In 2011, a 16-year-old stabbed a fellow teen six times during the event. Mshairi Alkebula was sentenced to six years in prison on felony charges that included assault with a deadly weapon.

In 2000, another 16-year-old boy opened fire and injured seven children during the same event, held for black families for more than 100 years.

After the 2011 stabbing, zoo director Dennis Kelly pledged a "thorough review" of the zoo's security procedures, but insisted the annual tradition would go on.

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