Sunday, July 2, 2006

The Fourth of July weekend has been especially violent so far with nine fatal shootings, including a triple homicide in Adelphi that could be gang-related.

“It has been violent,” Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said yesterday. “We already have additional officers working to increase neighborhood patrols and handle the various events.”

At least four men have been fatally shot and another two seriously wounded in the District since Friday. Gunfire killed the three young men in Adelphi, one in Forestville and an Army veteran in Arlington.

The violence began just after midnight Friday when Paul Matthew Zeller, 24, was fatally shot while walking near the Pentagon Row shopping area in the 1300 block of Joyce Street in Arlington.

The Arlington County Police Department interviewed several witnesses immediately after the shooting and set up a checkpoint near the crime scene, where they distributed about 2,000 fliers. Investigators said they learned about witnesses who have yet to speak to police.

Another shooting in Arlington was reported about six hours later, in the 5600 block of North Fourth Street. A cabdriver told police that a passenger robbed him and shot him in the leg. His injury was not life-threatening.

A police spokeswoman yesterday reported no leads in the cabdriver’s shooting or the killing of Mr. Zeller, an Iraq war veteran, but said the amount of violence is unusual. Mr. Zeller was discharged by the military in September 2004 and was employed at a car dealership.

The Prince George’s County Police Department has not said gang violence was behind the killings of three and the wounding of a fourth man Friday night in Adelphi, although witnesses reported hearing shouts of “Mara Salvatrucha” at about the time of the shootings, just before midnight.

Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13, is a Salvadoran gang that entered California in the 1980s and has been expanding in the past three or four years, particularly in Northern Virginia and Prince George’s County.

Police have not released the names of the dead men, ages 19, 20 and 29, or the wounded 21-year-old Prince George’s County man. Two of the men killed lived in Montgomery County. The third lived in Virginia.

Police reportedly are looking for five or six assailants who shouted and began shooting in the hallway of the three-story brick apartment building in the 1900 block of Erie Street. Authorities said they had no indication that the victims were gang members.

A fourth person was killed in Prince George’s County over the weekend. Calvin Lee Stith, 28, was fatally shot Saturday at about 3:25 a.m. in the 400 block of Rena Road in Forestville.

The weekend shootings in the District began Saturday at about 12:15 a.m., when an unidentified, 25-year-old man was fatally shot in the 2000 block of Maryland Avenue Northeast. About two hours later, Francis E. Watkins, 23, was fatally shot in the 4100 block of Gault Place Northeast.

At about 10:15 p.m. Saturday, Michael Darnaby was found fatally shot in the head inside his A-and-L Market in the 2000 block of First Street Northwest.

Neighbors have scheduled a candlelight vigil near the convenience store beginning at 5:30 p.m. today.

The killing was followed by three shootings in Southwest.

David Holt, 20, was found fatally shot yesterday at about 4:30 a.m. in the 1000 block of Third Street Southwest. Mr. Holt, of the 2400 block of Pomeroy Road Southeast, was pronounced dead at Washington Hospital Center.

Soon afterward, a 16-year-old boy was found in the 1000 block of Delaware Avenue Southwest. He was treated at a hospital for serious bullet wounds.

Also in the Southwest, a 25-year-old man was found in the 200 block of I Street with gunshot wounds to his body and one arm.

Chief Ramsey said the shootings will result in increased police presence and vigilance in Southwest.

He said the Delaware Avenue shooting is “in an area where we have also had increased juvenile arrests.”

Police officials said the motives of the shootings remain unknown, but Chief Ramsey said police will increase suspect stops and watch for retaliation.

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