- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A 16-year-old boy in the care of the city’s juvenile-justice agency was fatally shot in Northwest Washington on Tuesday - part of a vicious spurt of youth crime and violence in the District this week.

Prince Okorie was placed at a shelter licensed by the D.C. Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) on Nov. 9, according to sources at the agency. Three weeks later, at 4:20 p.m. Tuesday, police investigating the sound of gunshots in the 800 block of Delafield Place in the Petworth neighborhood of Northwest found Prince’s body.

Three boys were seen fleeing the area after the shooting. No arrests have been made.

DYRS Interim Director Robert Hildum said on Wednesday that Prince had not yet been committed to DYRS. Sources told The Washington Times that the juvenile recently was detained at the department’s Youth Services Center and, pending a commitment hearing, placed at a shelter run by Alternative Solutions for Youth, a community-based residential treatment program.

Though he acknowledged the agency’s oversight of the shelter, Mr. Hildum declined to discuss specifics.

“It would not be unusual for a youth living at a shelter to be on the street in the middle of the day, either coming from school or going to some other activity,” he said.

In other incidents, youths in Southeast Washington have been involved in a spate of vicious, unprovoked attacks the last several days.

On Sunday, witnesses reported seeing a group of four black males confront a young woman walking from the Harris Teeter grocery store along the 1300 block of Pennsylvania Avenue in Southeast in the middle of the afternoon. The woman was carrying a grocery bag in each hand when one of the males punched her in the face and broke her jaw. No arrests have been made.

On Tuesday, another woman was punched and thrown to the ground by a group of four teenagers who were unsuccessful in their attempt to steal her purse.

The attacks prompted a heightened police presence in the area known as Hill East, not far from the affluent Eastern Market neighborhood. Metropolitan Police Cmdr. David Kamperin told residents via a posting on a neighborhood listserv that “these random attacks are disturbing, and this type of violence should shock the conscience within this safe community.”

In a recent series of articles, The Times explored youth violence in the District and found that DYRS has been plagued by a pattern of crimes committed by and against youths under the agency’s supervision.

The department is in need of an “overhaul,” according to D.C. Mayor-elect Vincent C. Gray, whose transition team met last week with Mr. Hildum, the third person to lead the agency in the past year.

But the city’s problem with youth crime and violence is not limited to wards of DYRS.

On Monday, police found the body of 17-year-old Ebony Franklin stuffed into a trash can in an alley behind the 1000 block of Fairmont Street in Northwest. Though not a ward of DYRS, Ebony had been working with youth-outreach counselors for more than a year.

Ebony, who had been reported missing by her mother, lived in the 4600 block of Pistachio Lane in Capitol Heights, Md., though she was a frequent presence in Columbia Heights Village, a troubled housing project in D.C.’s Ward 1, according to youth-outreach workers who discussed her case with The Times.

Over the last several years, she had attended Cardozo High School in Northwest Washington and Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, Md., the outreach workers said.

The block where she lived, a small cul de sac in Prince George’s County, also was the scene of a fatal shooting in August of DYRS ward David Javon Hinson.

Prince George’s County police said Hinson, 20, of Northeast Washington, was fatally shot on Aug. 11 as he was driving at about 6 p.m. He traveled a few dozen feet before his automobile crashed into a tree. Police found him dead behind the wheel.

Also on Monday, three wards of DYRS were caught on surveillance cameras leaving the Washington Humane Society’s shelter in Northeast Washington with a 4-month-old pit bull named Ivan. DYRS sources told The Times on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the subject that the juveniles were at the agency’s headquarters on Wednesday.

Scott Giacoppo, a spokesman for the humane society, later confirmed for The Washington Times that Humane Society officials had located the dog.

The youths entered the shelter Monday posing as potential adopters. Once inside, the suspects took Ivan from his cage and escaped by breaking through a wooden fence behind the building, shelter officials said.

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