- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A weekend homicide in the District was sparked by a dispute over a can of Natural Ice beer, according to witness accounts.

James Johnson, 30, was arrested Sunday for fatally shooting Talbert Mitchell Bright, 48, in a Northwest park early Saturday, police said.

Court papers filed in the case quote three witnesses who said as many as 30 people were in the park at about 2:44 a.m. when the shooting occurred. One witness said a group was “drinking, joking, and having a good time.”

According to the accounts, the dispute began when Mr. Bright rode his bike into a park area in the 200 block of Massachusetts Avenue — near Georgetown University Law Center and a local homeless shelter. Mr. Bright reportedly tried to get a beer from a 30-pack Mr. Johnson had with him.


The accounts vary in detail, but the witnesses — all of whom told police they had been among the group drinking — generally seem to agree that Mr. Bright asked Mr. Johnson for a beer and that Mr. Johnson refused to give him or sell him one. Witnesses said Mr. Bright reached for a beer and that Mr. Johnson confronted him, eventually pulling a gun from a bag and shooting him as many as seven or eight times before fleeing.

One witness said the men, both of whom are listed as having no fixed address, had been arguing the week prior to the killing because Mr. Johnson’s girlfriend had flirted with Mr. Bright. The witness said the men had seen each other daily around the park since the incident but that the dispute had not escalated to physical violence.

Petty arguments that turned fatal constitute an increasing percent of homicides being investigated by the Metropolitan Police Department this year.

“We’ve had 14 cases this year that were just arguments that resulted in an injury that resulted in death,” Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said.

Six such homicides were spurred by simple arguments last year, she said.