Crime: As Shootings Mar Holiday Weekend, Mayor Searches for New Police Chief
By June 20, 2023 0 582•
Despite the Jubilation of the Father’s Day and Juneteenth weekend in the nation’s capital, gales of gun violence tore through the city as Mayor Bowser continues to search for a new Chief of Police.
The problem is, many other major metropolitan areas are also looking for police chiefs right now, including New York City, Chicago, New Orleans, Louisville and Charleston, South Carolina. A dearth of qualified police recruits has also haunted many cities since nationwide protests over policing in 2020 and the onset of the pandemic in 2021.
And, in light of the District’s rising gun violence, homicide and car-jacking statistics, who would jump at the chance to be D.C.’s next chief?
According to recent crime statistics published by Mayor Bowser’s office on her open-date “Crime Cards,” while burglaries “went down by 9,995 citywide [over] the past 6 years,” “Assaults [with] dangerous weapon[s] (gun) went up by 727 citywide [over] the past 6 years and “stolen autos” rose by 2,562 “citywide” over the same time-frame.
“Violent crime in the District has spiked 21 percent this year over last, driven in part by robberies, homicides and sexual abuse cases, police statistics show,” according to the Washington Post. “The city’s homicide count is on pace to exceed 200 for the third consecutive year; before 2021, D.C. hadn’t recorded 200 killings since 2003.” And, while “Assaults with dangerous weapons, which include shootings in which someone is injured, have steadied, attacks involving juveniles have increased,” the Post reported. “As of Friday [June 16], police said 58 people younger than 18 had been hit by gunfire this year, double from the same period in 2022.”
Meanwhile, the spate of gun violence in the District over the long holiday weekend was particularly merciless for younger residents. Two teen cousins were killed in a shooting and a 6-year old critically injured.
“The family had gathered to celebrate Father’s Day at a residence in Southeast Washington, three generations coming together. DeMarcos Pinckney, 15, begged his mother to stay overnight with his older cousin, according to his godmother,” the Post reported. “ Hours later, police said bullets fired toward the residence on Langston Place in Garfield Heights struck DeMarcos in the back and hit his 17-year-old cousin, Kevin Mason, in the neck. Both were outside…. The teens died later at a hospital, about two hours apart, among the latest victims of gun violence claiming young people and others in the District.”
A 6-year old boy was also critically injured and a man wounded when “gunfire struck a vehicle they were in, and a 16-year-old was wounded by a bullet that entered her home,” according to the Post. Additionally, “A 14-year-old boy was fatally shot Saturday night.”
So far this year in D.C., 11 kids under-18-years-old have been fatally shot, exceeding last year’s pace. “Gunfire in the first half of 2023 has killed children ages 10, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17. Homicides overall in the District are up 16 percent over this time last year, according to the most recent statistics posted by police on Friday,” the Post reported.
On Thursday June 15, Mayor Bowser hosted a “Teletownhall” with the city administrator and the deputy mayor for public safety and justice, to seek public input on the search for the District’s next police chief. More than 1,000 people attended, according to the mayor’s office. Mayor Bowser has also circulated a public survey of residents to gather input. “I feel like we’re trying to appease the community, more than protect the community,” said an anonymous women caller from Ward 8 according to the Post, “For the first time in my life, I fear for my life every day.”
Mayor Bowser reassured one caller who wanted to know what was going to change in Ward 8, “What I think is most important is that we have a leader and that we have a person who’s committed to driving down crime in the District,” Bowser said, according to WJLA.
But the search process so far conducted by the mayor has not proceeded without some criticism. D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson has publicly disagreed with the mayor’s opening up of the search nationwide, as opposed to selecting a candidate who knows the District and has risen up through the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). He has also criticized the mayor for not including Ward 2 Council member Brooke Pinto, Chair of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety on the D.C. Council, on the search committee for the next chief.
Pinto, however, described her communications about the search process with the mayor as “appropriate,” according to the Post. And she said the next chief of police should be a “true thought partner and collaborator” who “understands where the District has come from in terms of our efforts to improve accountability in our police department.”
The Washington Post described the mayor’s search process so far as “unclear.” No “description of the process, a specific timetable, or progress updates have been provided publicly” since the retirement June 3 of Chief Contee who will be joining the FBI. On May 31, Chief Contee was lauded for his 33 years of service on the MPD, having become a police cadet at age 17 and risen through the ranks to the top job. His ceremony included bag pipes and a police helicopter flyover. Ashan Benedict, executive assistant chief since April 2021, is currently serving as MPD’s interim chief and announced he’s not interested in the Chief role permanently.
On June 16, MPD announced it’s “stepping up traffic enforcement and education this summer as [D.C.] surpasses a 50 percent increase in traffic fatalities compared to this time last year.” Such increases are due primarily to driving under the influence, MPD’s statement said. Despite the District’s Vision Zero initiative with the goal of reducing traffic fatalities in the city to zero, the surge in road deaths has prompted the department to emphasize public education for drivers at checkpoints. “Our officers are not simply out there to write tickets,” said Interim Chief of Police Ashan Benedict, “We have tasked them with educating drivers about their unsafe behavior and many interactions may end with simply a warning.”
On June 14, detectives from MPD’s Sexual Assault Unit requested public assistance in identifying and locating a suspect in reference to a “Third-Degree Sexual Abuse Offense” that occurred on June 11 in the 1800 block of R St. NW. “At approximately 1:00 a.m., the suspect assaulted the victim and then engaged in unwanted sexual contact with the victim at the listed location. The suspect then fled the scene,” the report said.
The suspect is described as “a 25 to 35-year-old black male, 5’10” to 6’0” in height, between approximately 150 to 175 pounds, with long dreads and a beard,” the report said. “He was last seen wearing a trooper style winter hat, dark long-sleeved shirt, light gray pants, and black and white shoes.”
He was captured by a camera and can be seen in the photos below:
On June 14, detectives from MPD’s Sexual Assault Unit requested public assistance in identifying and locating a suspect in reference to a “Misdemeanor Sexual Abuse Offense” that occurred on June 8 in the 5100 block of Wisconsin Ave. NW. “At approximately 2:45 p.m., the suspect engaged in unwanted sexual contact with the victim at the listed location. The suspect then fled the scene,” the report said.
The suspect was captured by a camera and can be seen in the photo below:
On June 12, detectives from MPD’s Third District requested public assistance in locating suspects in reference to an “Armed Carjacking (Gun) Offense” that occurred on June 11, in the 1200 block of Vermont Ave. NW. “At approximately 11:27 a.m., the suspects approached the victims, who were seated in their vehicle, at the listed location. One of the suspects brandished a handgun and demanded the victim’s exit the vehicle. The suspects assaulted the victims then fled the scene in their vehicle. The vehicle has since been recovered,” the report said.
Two of the suspects were captured by a surveillance camera and can be seen in the photos below:
On June 9, detectives from MPD’s Homicide Branch announced an arrest made in reference to a homicide that occurred on June 8 in the 1900 block of 7th St. NW. “At approximately 1:07 p.m., Third District officers responded to the listed location for the report of a Shooting. Upon arrival, officers located an adult male shooting victim. DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services responded to the scene and transported the victim to an area hospital. After all life-saving efforts failed, the victim was pronounced dead,” the report said. “The decedent has been identified as 62-year-old Lasanta McGill, of Northwest, D.C. On June 8 as a result of the detectives’ investigation, 20-year-old Demarcus Barnett, of Southeast, D.C. was arrested and charged with Second Degree Murder while Armed.”
The public is invited to notify MPD with tips or information at (202) 727-9099, or on the department’s TEXT TIP LINE by text messaging 50411. In some cases, money rewards are offered for information leading to arrest and conviction.
Editor’s disclaimer: This crime article is based on MPD reports. Suspect information presented has not necessarily been adjudicated in a court of law. A presumption of innocence applies in all cases pending a legal determination.