- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 2, 2004

An off-duty D.C. police officer and a teenager attempting to rob him killed each other in a shootout early yesterday morning in front of an Oxon Hill apartment complex, Prince George’s County police said.

Police said 34-year-old Sgt. Clifton Rife II was arriving at a friend’s apartment in the 5400 block of Livingston Terrace at about 4 a.m. when a teenager wearing a ski mask and holding a revolver approached and announced a robbery.

Sgt. Rife, a 13-year veteran of the Metropolitan Police Department narcotics unit who was in plain clothes at the time, drew his police-issued 9 mm Glock pistol and a gunbattle ensued. Both the officer and his assailant, 16-year-old Jonathan M. Washington, were shot multiple times in the upper body, police said.

Jonathan, who lived in the 5600 block of Livingston Terrace, died at the scene.

Sgt. Rife made it into one of the apartments and police were called. He was taken by helicopter to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 5:40 a.m., police said.

He was the second D.C. police officer to die this week. Sgt. John S. Ashley died on duty Sunday of a heart attack while helping a young woman catch a dog in the 1600 block of 30th Street NW.

The Prince George’s County Police Department is investigating Sgt. Rife’s death as a homicide.

Evidence at the scene and witness accounts led investigators to determine the shooting resulted from a failed robbery, said Prince George’s County police spokeswoman Officer Debbi Sabel.

She said there was no reason to believe the officer and the teen knew each other.

Officer Sabel did not know how many shots were fired, but a woman living in a first-floor apartment just feet away from the shootout said the gunfire sounded like a machine gun.

Four bullet holes marred the wall of the stairwell leading up to the second floor of the building. The apartment door at the top of the stairs had three bullet holes in the bottom of it and the door across the hall had a bullet hole in the top left corner.

“I thought they were shooting at our door. It was just awful,” said the downstairs neighbor, a single mother with a 12-year-old daughter who just recently moved into the building. She gave her name only as Dawn.

“I’m moving,” she said. “I didn’t realize how bad this neighborhood was.”

Some residents of the garden-style River View Terrace Apartments where the shootout occurred said they were not surprised by the officer’s deadly face-off with a would-be robber because crime plagues their neighborhood from dusk until dawn.

“When you are out here that late, you are putting yourself at risk,” said a man wearing a crocheted skullcap who lives in the same row of two-story apartments as the shootings. He declined to give his name.

He said numerous car thefts and occasional robberies were the norm for the neighborhood. And he expected the problems to worsen. “It’s not even warm yet,” he said. “We’ve got a long summer to go.”

Len Mackey, a 38-year-old custodian for D.C. Public Schools who lives nearby, described the neighborhood with one word: Rough.

“When I get off work, I get out of the car and go straight into the house,” Mr. Mackey said. “It’s dangerous out here. It’s dark.”

He said a pizza-delivery man was shot during a robbery Saturday night. At least two of his neighbors recently moved because of the crime, he said.

“They call it Oxon Hill, but it is Southeast, for real,” Mr. Mackey said.

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