- The Washington Times - Monday, August 27, 2001

D.C. police are still searching for the gunman who shot a 15-year-old boy in the leg and fired several shots into the air, causing a stampede in which nine others were injured during the Georgia Avenue Day fair Saturday night.

Meanwhile, residents are complaining the shooting gives a bad name to a neighborhood that is trying to rehabilitate its reputation for crime and violence.

Sinclair Skinner, an advisory neighborhood commissioner and one of the festival's organizers, said what upsets him is that the facts of the case are likely to be glossed over and the lasting impression a year from now will be that Georgia Avenue is not a safe place to be.

"We're saying that one person at the end of this event shot in the air. That's a criminal," Mr. Skinner said. He said it should not taint the fair or the experience for the hundreds of people who peacefully enjoyed the day.

Mr. Skinner, who attended the festival at Banneker Field in the 2400 block of Georgia Avenue NW, said for eight hours people celebrated the "success stories" of minority businesses along the Georgia Avenue corridor.

He said the event had ended and the music turned off for 15 minutes before the shooting occurred.

There were "three or four" shots that witnesses told him were fired into the air.

"It sounded like a pop-pop, kind of like a firecracker," Mr. Skinner said.

Then the crowd ran for cover.

D.C. fire and rescue spokesman Alan Etter said the unidentified teen-ager who was shot is in fair condition at a local hospital.

As the shots were fired, people began to run to for cover and knocked others to the ground. Those hurt in the stampede ranged in age from 13 to 24, including a pregnant woman. All were driven to area hospitals, treated and released, Mr. Etter said.

The festival, which featured live music and other performances, vendors and a variety of ethnic foods, has been a traditional event in the Northwest neighborhood for almost 14 years.

In 1996, a teen-age boy died after he was shot in the head as crowds at the festival were breaking up. Organizers canceled the event in 1998 when it became too expensive to pay for police protection.

The revival of Georgia Avenue Day festival drew hundreds to its two sites, one at Emory Recreation Center, at Georgia Avenue and Madison Street NW, and the other at Banneker Park.

Mr. Skinner was active in bringing the celebration back to Georgia Avenue and said the incident won't deter him from pushing to hold the festival again next year.

"If one person shooting in the air is going to stop the event, it shouldn't have taken place in the first place," he said. "We're not a community to be held hostage by one idiot."

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