Chief Calls Shootings ‘Ridiculous and Unacceptable’

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D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham at Aug. 10 press conference. Courtesy D.C. TV & Cable.

“These shootings are ridiculous and unacceptable,” a furious Metropolitan Police Department Chief Peter Newsham declared on Monday, Aug. 10, as he gave details about the violence that had broken out around 12:30 a.m. on Sunday morning during a community cookout in Southeast D.C. There was one death: a 17-year-old father of two. Among the 21 reported wounded were 12 women, one an unarmed, off-duty MPD officer who is fighting for her life.  

There were four shooters — with 100 bullets fired, according to MPD.

“Every agency in the city today is urgently facing this enormous tragedy where lots of young people with lots of guns seem to think it’s okay to use them indiscriminately at a community gathering with young women present,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said at her Monday morning press briefing.   

When reporters queried the mayor why the police hadn’t broken up the large gathering — which had more than double the 50-person limit allowed under D.C.’s Phase Two pandemic reopening restrictions — the mayor became exasperated. “What are you saying? Hey, Bowser, send in police to go bust up a party of hundreds of people, some with guns who will use them? Right now, this is more about the shooters than the mass gatherings.” 

“Every weekend, we hear about gatherings that are not permitted,” Newsham said. “We don’t have enough officers for a crowd that size in one place when there are plenty more throughout the city. This was just one.” 

“It’s a conundrum,” said the mayor firmly. “There is not one simple answer. What to do about large gatherings where there are people with guns is a question for government, for community leaders, for individuals, for families. Families need to keep their young people close. We all have to focus on the challenge of how to ensure that the community is safe from increasing the spread of coronavirus infections and preventing tragic unacceptable violence with guns.” 

According to Newsham, all the victims other than the one who was killed were adults: one was under 19, 16 were between the ages of 20 and 29 and four were over 30. Of those who gave police their addresses, about half were from D.C., he said.

“I am absolutely sure that, from a gathering that size, there is someone out there who knows who was responsible for this unacceptable violence,” Newsham said. “We are asking anyone with any knowledge about the shooters and/or those responsible to text 50411 or call 202-727-9099, anonymously if they prefer.”  

The mayor’s Monday morning press conferences usually focus on an update of COVID-19 infections. But not this time. The seemingly indiscriminate use of guns during a weekend social event trumped every other issue this Monday. The mayor abruptly walked off as soon as the police report was completed, ending the conference.

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