- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Metropolitan Police said Tuesday that they arrested a Hyattsville man for the fatal shooting of a 9-year-old Columbia Heights boy during an apparent robbery on Saturday.

Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said Josue Pena, 26, a known associate of the Salvadoran gang MS-13, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Oscar Fuentes of the 1400 block of Columbia Road Northwest Saturday night.

Oscar’s death was the seventh homicide in an eight-day stretch leading up to Saturday that has set the pace for November to be the most violent month in a year when the crime rate is approaching historic lows.

There have been 129 homicides so far this year compared with 167 at the same time last year, according to preliminary statistics from the police department.

But 10 homicides have been reported so far this month - more than in all of March, April or September. And the 18 homicides recorded last month were the most of any month so far this year.

Chief Lanier said she would not characterize the spate as an uptick in violence.

“No, not an uptick. But it’s more violence than we want,” she said, adding that she will maintain police pressure against violent offenders.

“We’re just kind of fed up with this. That’s why in cases like this nobody goes home until an arrest is made,” she said.

Oscar’s death was one of four killings on record during the seventh phase of Chief Lanier’s signature All Hands on Deck initiative in which all officers are required to work patrol shifts.

Kristopher Baumann, head of the union labor committee that represents D.C. officers, has criticized All Hands on Deck as ineffective and as “public relations policing.”

He said the weekend’s events further confirm that.

“We had four homicides during an All Hands on Deck weekend. If that doesn’t make it clear to everybody that All Hands on Deck has nothing to do with deterring crime, I don’t know what will,” Officer Baumann said.

Officials in part blamed unsecured front and back doors of the apartment building where Oscar was killed for the crime, saying that Mr. Pena should not have been able to access the building.

“There could not be any more serious a problem that would be associated with having doors like this unsecured than what happened,” Mayor Adrian M. Fenty said during a news conference outside the building Tuesday morning. “I would never imagine a door being unsecured would lead to a 9-year-old boy being shot behind is own apartment door.”

Shortly after the news conference, city workers could be seen painting over gang graffiti on the front of the building.

The warped, wooden front door to the building opens freely and does not even have a doorknob. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs spokesman Michael Rupert said inspectors were cataloging all the building’s code violations on Monday and Tuesday.

He said there had not been an inspection request at the building since 2007 or any complaints about the building in “almost three years.”

Chief Lanier said Oscar was with his parents when Mr. Pena tried to rob them. The family was able to get away into their apartment, but, police said, Mr. Pena shot through the door and hit Oscar.

Residents said they won’t feel safe in the building until the front and back doors are fixed.

Maria Arias, who has lived in the building for five years, said the buildings has been in disrepair for a long time. She said she has made complaints to the owner, but no substantial work has ever been done to improve the building.

“The building has been like this for a long, long, long time,” Miss Arias said. “They come and they say they’ve fixed it, but they don’t do it the right way.”

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