- The Washington Times - Monday, August 4, 2003

D.C. police are trying to determine whether yesterday’s shooting in Northwest is linked to a series of gang-related killings over the past 10 days.

Yesterday’s shooting occurred at about 3:30 p.m. in an alley behind Columbia Road at 17th Street NW. Police said a Hispanic man in his early 20s was walking in the alley when he was shot several times from a green minivan.

The man was taken to Howard University Hospital, where he was in critical condition last night. Police had not released his identity.

Shortly after the shooting, police stopped a minivan, at the intersection of Georgia and Arkansas avenues NW, that matched the description of the one spotted at the scene of the shooting. Police took in a man and two teenage males to the Violent Crimes Branch for questioning, but no charges were filed last night. Police took the van to the Mobile Crime Unit, where they were awaiting a warrant to search it.

Yesterday’s shooting is the fifth killing being investigated for ties to rival Hispanic gangs in Northwest in the past 10 days.

The first occurred July 26 in the 1400 block of Columbia Road in Northwest. Patrol officers witnessed a man being shot in the head, and responding officers arrested a suspect in that shooting. A quadruple shooting that killed one man occurred later that day at 14th and Chapin streets in Northwest.

Early Saturday, a Hispanic man who lived in the 1400 block of Columbia Road NW was shot in Northeast. Later that day, another Hispanic man was shot from a car as he sat at a table playing cards with other men in front of a house on the 3000 block of Sherman Avenue NW.

A 5-year-old girl was injured in the cross fire of that shooting when a bullet grazed her leg. She was treated at a local hospital.

Metropolitan Police Department spokesman Sgt. Joe Gentile said the shootings are “still under investigation” and that police didn’t know whether they were a string of retaliatory gang killings.

“That’s a possibility we’re going to investigate,” Sgt. Gentile said.

D.C. police Cmdr. Thomas McGuire said police are concerned about possible future retaliatory strikes and have stepped up patrols in the Northwest neighborhoods.

There have been 14 killings in the District since July 26, raising the total for the year to 155, compared to 143 at this time last year.

Homicide rates in the city have risen over the last four years. There were 233 homicides in 2001, compared with 262 last year — the most since Police Chief Charles Ramsey took over the police department in April 1998.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams said yesterday said that crime levels are “unacceptable.”

“Any amount of crime is unacceptable in my city. Any amount of crime is unacceptable in our neighborhoods,” Mr. Williams said.

Mr. Williams is working with Chief Ramsey to come up with proposals that would improve neighborhood security. They plan to present their proposals to the D.C. Council this fall.

On July 28, Chief Ramsey reaffirmed a police policy that prohibits officers from enforcing civil immigration laws and asking individuals about their citizenship, immigration or residency status.

Last month, Chief Ramsey increased the D.C. CrimeSolvers reward for information leading to arrests and indictments in unsolved homicides from $10,000 to $25,000. Police in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland and Fairfax County in Virginia offer up to $1,000 in reward money.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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