- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 31, 2005

D.C. police are looking for two persons in connection with a drive-by shooting that killed one teen and wounded another Monday night in the troubled Sursum Corda housing complex, a crime that further fueled frustration among its residents.

Police said they think two persons fired shots from a passing van into the group of teenagers with whom Andre Belton, 17, and a 15-year-old boy were standing. Investigators said one possibility was that the boys had been in an argument with someone earlier in the day.

“We’re hearing multiple reasons why this happened, some could be drugs,” said police Cmdr. Thomas McGuire yesterday. “Until police sit down with this information, sift through this information, we don’t know.”

Residents who sat out in front of their apartments yesterday afternoon talked about the killing and their frustration with the violence that continues to plague their neighborhood. The shooting occurred at about 9 p.m. Monday in the 1100 block of First Place NW.

“To be honest, I really don’t know what to do about it,” said Jacky Farmer, 30, who lives on First Place NW. “The police are here but instead of keeping the violence out, it seems like they just harass those who live here. I just wish it would stop.”

Andre, who lived in Temple Hills, died of his injuries at Howard University Hospital shortly after the shooting. He was visiting relatives in Sursum Corda hours before he was fatally shot.

The other teenager was wounded and released from the hospital yesterday. He was not identified. Police had hoped that he would be able to help them identify those responsible for the shooting.

D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said the victim was not cooperating with police yesterday. But the chief said he remained hopeful that the victim would ultimately help authorities.

“There had to be a motive of some kind, and it’s a question of finding out exactly what that motive is,” Chief Ramsey said. “The other young man who was shot is not being cooperative at this time, but hopefully, that’ll turn around and he’ll be able to provide us with some information.”

As children got home from school yesterday, a memorial of teddy bears and stuffed animals began to grow on the corner where Andre was shot. Around the corner, about seven police officers stood in the shade and talked.

Sursum Corda has a history of violence and is known to city police officials as a drug market. Last year, Jahkema Princess Hansen, 14, was killed after she was thought to have witnessed a fatal shooting over drugs, police had said.

The neighborhood made the list of 14 crime “hot spots,” where city agencies were working with police to reduce crime and improve compliance with city ordinances.

Jahkema’s slaying prompted city police and government officials to crack down on those who commit violent crimes in the area.

In March, D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams, Chief Ramsey and U.S. Attorney Kenneth Wainstein toured Sursum Corda where they said that the crackdown was a success and that it would become the model for a citywide initiative.

Cmdr. McGuire said yesterday that police realize that no area will be totally crime-free.

“We thought we were in the right direction of bringing crime under control,” he said. “But with all the resources we’re putting up there, of course this is a shock to us.”

Residents said yesterday that there were about 35 people standing on the street eating ice cream and chatting Monday night when the van the shooters were in drove by.

“It was like a block party out here [Monday] night,” Miss Farmer said. “Groups of people hang out on the street, lots of kids and older people. Those people drive by with no care about whether there are children out here or not.”

The shooters drove down First Place NW, firing and leaving holes in walls, air conditioners and at least one parked car, witnesses said.

“They drove down there shooting everywhere. They don’t have no regard for anything,” said a resident, who did not want to be identified for this story.

Brittany Carrington, 20, was walking back from an ice cream truck parked on the street when the shooting occurred.

“He just got caught in the fire. He didn’t do nothing wrong. Same with the other kid. He went to school. They were both good kids who didn’t do nothing,” she said of the victims.

Most residents were afraid to talk about the shooting because they didn’t want any retaliation.

“You never know when they are going to come back. I don’t want to really talk about it because I don’t know if they are going to come back for me,” Miss Carrington said.

Police are offering a $25,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest and a conviction in the case.

• This story is based in part on wire service reports.

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