- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 4, 2004

A student charged with fatally shooting a fellow student inside Ballou High School will be arraigned on second-degree murder charges today in D.C. Superior Court.

Thomas Boykin, 18, was accompanied by a public defender when he surrendered to authorities yesterday. He was charged with shooting James Richardson, 17, of Southeast in a hallway inside the school on Monday.

The suspect was taken to Metropolitan Police Department headquarters, where he was questioned.

A 17-year-old wanted for questioning in the shooting also turned himself in to police early yesterday. As of last night, only Mr. Boykin had been charged.

Police spokesman Sgt. Joe Gentile said no weapon had been recovered.

A 14-year-old, who lives on the same street as James, was arrested yesterday after police said they found him with two powerful guns.

Sgt. Gentile said officers tried to pull over a car in the 600 block of Yuma Street SE yesterday at about 12:45 p.m. The car backed into a trash bin, and when police pulled the teenager out, they found a fully loaded automatic handgun in his pocket, and a Mac-11 submachine gun in the pouch of his sweat shirt.

“You see the weaponry our officers have to face,” he said. “And [the weapons] are in the hands of juveniles. Something has to be done. It’s not a police problem; it’s a societal problem.”

Whether the youth is connected to the shootings at Ballou is under investigation, Sgt. Gentile said.

More than 1,000 students, parents and community members filled the school gymnasium last night to air concerns about Ballou. The meeting with city officials — including Mayor Anthony A. Williams and police Chief Charles H. Ramsey — lasted more than three hours.

Those who spoke were emotional and many of them were angry. At one point, they were told, “We can’t turn this into a shouting match.”

Mr. Williams postponed his scheduled State of the District speech to attend the meeting. He entered to a mix of boos and applause.

“I cannot wave a magic wand and solve the problems of this city,” he said in response to the criticism aimed at him by parents.

“We don’t have answers to this,” acting Superintendent Elfreda W. Massie said. “It’s important for teachers and students not to be in an environment where they don’t feel safe.”

Miss Massie said that the school system would work with parents who want to transfer their students out of Ballou. Slots were open in other high schools throughout the city, she said.

Parents arriving for the meeting were handed a letter from Ballou Principal Art Bridges, which said grief counselors would continue to be available for students.

School officials said 21 security officers will be stationed permanently at Ballou, compared with six officers at other schools. Two D.C. police officers are also assigned to the school.

Chief Ramsey said he will help school officials come up with a better security plan, adding that the mayor plans to propose legislation that would allow off-duty officers to work part time on school grounds.

In Monday’s shooting, an 18-year-old student who was grazed by a bullet in his lower left leg was treated at a hospital and released. Authorities withheld his identity because he is a witness in the case.

Police are investigating whether the shooting has any connection to an ongoing dispute between groups of Ballou students from the Condon Terrace and Barry Farms neighborhoods in Southeast.

Tyron Parker, a 16-year-old Ballou freshman from Condon Terrace, said he does not feel unsafe at the school, but acknowledged that his neighborhood friends were uneasy because of the recent violence.

“Barry Farms, that’s who we’re beefing with,” Tyron said.

William Patterson, James’ father, said his son had only recently returned to class after staying home for about six weeks because he was afraid. “He’d only been back a week before they shot him,” Mr. Patterson said.

His son said he feared for his life, citing a longstanding dispute with another student that began in October, Mr. Patterson said.

“My son got in a fight back in October and got the best of another kid, and I guess that kid figured since he couldn’t beat my son up with his hands, he’d use a gun,” he said.

D.C. Public Schools officials did not return phone calls yesterday in response to Mr. Patterson’s comments. Nor were calls to Ballou returned.

Chief Ramsey told WTOP Radio that the design of the school makes it almost impossible to cover every entrance with adequate staff. Ballou’s sprawling building has about 140 doors that open to the surrounding school grounds. There are only two metal detectors at the school.

Chief Ramsey said it may be necessary to place security guards at strategic points throughout the school.

Some officials have suggested that cameras be installed to improve security in areas that are not routinely patrolled.

As school was dismissed on Monday, several members of the National Alliance for Change gathered outside the front door. They stressed the need for changes in how issues at Ballou are dealt with.

“If we don’t get to the problem, this will happen again, bottom line,” said NAC Event Coordinator Ronald Moten.

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