- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 9, 2003

A “running gunbattle” between gang members that stretched over five blocks of a crowded Northwest neighborhood left one person dead and a Metro bus driver wounded yesterday afternoon.

Police said the shooting started at about 2:30 p.m. near the intersection of Kenyon Road and Mount Pleasant Street NW. The shooters moved southward on foot, exchanging gunfire to the intersection of 16th Street and Columbia Road NW.

Witnesses said people ducked for cover as shots rang out.

“It was like bap-bap-bap-bap-bap,” said Robert Delgado, who lives in an apartment overlooking Mount Pleasant Street. “I hit the floor, but I kept hearing shots. It was like something on TV.”

Along the route were bloody footprints, cars with bullet holes, and shattered glass from a bus stop shelter. More than a half-dozen shell casings littered the sidewalk in front of the Little Flower Montessori School, where witnesses said children were screaming.

An outraged Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said firing guns in broad daylight in front of a day care center means nothing to gang members.

“These guys don’t care,” he said. “They start throwing lead around at any time. They could care less about the consequences to innocent citizens. They have absolutely no regard for other life.”

Chief Ramsey said an off-duty Metropolitan Police officer in street clothes was drinking coffee at Dos Gringos, a cafe on Mount Pleasant Street, when he heard about eight gunshots. The officer chased after the gunmen, gathering information as he went, and called 911.

The officer, whose name has not been released because he is a witness, flagged down a passing patrol car and pursued the suspects. The officers arrested one man, who was running with his hand in his waistband concealing a gun, at the intersection of 15th and Harvard streets NW.

Responding officers arrested three more persons, and the police department’s gang unit arrested a fifth person at 17th and P streets NW who was carrying a gun. Police said investigators are trying to determine whether anyone else was involved.

Police said a 20-year-old man, who was shot in the leg, lost a tremendous amount of blood. He was transported to a hospital, where he died. It was not clear yesterday whether the man was involved in the shootings or if he was an innocent bystander. Police were not releasing his identity until his family could be notified.

A Metro bus driver was caught in the cross fire. The man was identified only as a 50-year-old black male who had been driving for two years.

“He was shot in the shoulder, but he has non-life-threatening injuries,” said Metro Transit Police Chief Polly Hanson. She said it was the first time a Metro bus driver had been shot on the job.

Chief Hanson said the bus had a “handful” of passengers, but none was hurt.

Chief Ramsey said the bus driver was able to identify the man who shot him from those taken into custody. He said police did not know what triggered the altercation.

“It doesn’t take an awful lot to get these guys shooting,” he said. “These folks are nothing. What they do is absolute savagery the way they go about their business.”

D.C. Council member Jim Graham praised the work of the officers involved, but said more needed to be done to stem gang violence.

“We’re all at wits’ end. You can raise the rhetoric and say all manner of things, but we have to get to the bottom of this gang violence,” said Mr. Graham, Ward 1 Democrat. “Until we’re ready to commit real and genuine and effective resources to these issues, let’s get used to this as the reality because this will be the reality.”

A series of five tit-for-tat gang-related shootings in July and August that killed four persons and injured five led city officials to form a gang intervention task force of city officials and community activists.

Police have made arrests in four of the five shootings. Chief Ramsey said yesterday that even the arrests have not had a deterrent effect on gang members.

“I don’t know why they don’t get the message,” he said. “I think there’s just a culture of violence out here, and people don’t see any other alternative than violence.”

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