Monday, July 10, 2006

D.C. police and community leaders yesterday tried to ease the concerns of a hostile crowd of more than 100 Georgetown residents who packed a local church, a day after an aspiring British political activist was stabbed to death outside a home in the affluent area.

“It was shocking, the viciousness of the attack. It’s completely out of the realm of any experience I have ever had in Georgetown, and I’ve lived here since 1964,” resident Diane Salisbury said during the community meeting at Christ Church in the 3100 block of O Street Northwest.

“It’s hard because it’s a wonderful neighborhood, and we pay a lot to live here, and then something like this happens. It’s animalistic,” said Claire Rosebush, 26.

The slaying of Alan Senitt, 27, raised concerns among Georgetown residents about their safety. He was stabbed to death in an attempted robbery about 2:15 a.m. Sunday.

Many residents at yesterday’s meeting were left frustrated and unhappy after hearing that they should not expect a permanent increase in the number of police patrolling the area.

“The likelihood of an increased police presence is probably not going to happen this summer,” said D.C. Council member Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat.

Residents expressed outrage that the city’s laws against vagrancy and loitering are not being enforced, but Mr. Evans said the Constitution limits police in forcing vagrants and loiterers to move on.

“It boils down to this: Is Georgetown safe? … Is there a pattern in the neighborhood of increased robberies, theft from auto, break-ins into houses, and can we expect more of this?” Mr. Evans said in an interview on WRC-TV (Channel 4) before the meeting.

“And what the statistics show are not that — that the crime rate, if anything, is lower this year than it was last year. … But when something like this happens, it heightens everyone’s concern.”

That brought little to no comfort to Georgetown residents.

“I’m not going out by myself at night. I will have to find a buddy to walk with — more than one, I think,” Miss Salisbury said.

Officer Junis Fletcher, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Department, said there have been 92 homicides in the District this year, about the same as last year at this time. The District had a total of 195 slayings last year.

Statistics for Georgetown were not immediately available, he said.

Mr. Senitt, a Jewish anti-Semitism activist from London who worked briefly for former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner’s political action committee, was stabbed in the throat during an attempted robbery in the 3100 block of Q Street Northwest as he and a woman were retrieving items from a car trunk, police said.

They were attacked by four would-be robbers, and during the assault Mr. Senitt told the woman to let them have her purse,” police District Cmdr. Andy Solberg said during yesterday’s meeting.

“He said, ‘Don’t fight over it. Give it to them. I’ve been cut,’ ” Cmdr. Solberg said.

Within three hours of the crime, police had nabbed and charged four suspects — including a 15-year-old boy — with murder and attempted robbery. Each of the suspects appeared briefly in court yesterday and pleaded not guilty during arraignment hearings.

A judge yesterday refused to release the adult defendants, calling the killing “a random vicious act.”

“I find them all to be a danger to the community,” Magistrate Judge Aida Melendez said at the arraignment for Christopher Piper, 25, Jeffrey Rice, 22, and Olivia Miles, 26.

Authorities say the four set out Saturday night to rob somebody in Northwest and Rice told the group he was going to “stab or cut somebody.”

According to charging documents, Rice and Piper and the 15-year-old ambushed Mr. Senitt and his female companion.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Gilberto Guerrero Jr. yesterday said that Piper, holding a gun, grabbed the woman and tried to drag her into the bushes.

Piper later implicated Rice as the person who slashed Mr. Senitt’s throat when he tried to help the woman.

Both Rice and Piper have criminal histories, including drug, assault and weapons offenses, according to D.C. Superior Court records.

Rice, who pleaded guilty to a 2003 cocaine charge, was sentenced to 180 days in jail that same year in a domestic assault. He also was charged in an assault and battery case in Arlington in 2003.

According to court records, Rice faced a domestic assault charge last year in a case that was later dropped. A girlfriend told police that Rice punched her in the head and that she broke an eardrum, documents show.

Piper was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 1998 for armed robbery. He was released on parole. Last year, he was also charged with marijuana possession.

The 15-year-old was not identified because he was charged as a juvenile.

Mr. Senitt had held several respected positions in the Jewish community after graduating from the University of Birmingham in Britain in 2001 with a first-class honors degree, the highest possible, in community studies. He spent three years as the national chairman of the Union of Jewish Students of Great Britain and Ireland.

From 2003 until last year, he was the public affairs officer for the Britain Israel Communications and Research Center, where he advised Parliamentarians on the Middle East.

Last year, he was appointed as the first full-time director of the Political Council for Coexistence, a new group that brought together Muslim and Jewish political leaders in the fight against the “growing level of Islamaphobia and Antisemitism worldwide.”

The group, which now goes by the Coexistence Trust, includes 35 nations and was founded by Prince Hassan bin Talal of Jordan and Lord Janner of Braunstone, England.

“He had a very strong sense of his Jewish identity,” Danny Stone, who took over for Mr. Senitt as director of the Coexistence Trust, told The Washington Times. “People seemed proud to have him leading the community.”

Mr. Senitt spent a year working for Lord Janner, a Labor peer and vice president of the World Jewish Congress.

• Michael Hunsberger contributed to this report.

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