Police Discuss ‘Volatile Situation’ in Northeast

Part I of Two-Part Report

914
In this file photo, Councilmember Charles Allen (Ward 6-D) and MPD First District Commander Morgan Kane listen to MPD Fifth District Commander William Fitzpatrick at a special discussion on crime at the November meeting of ANC 6A.

On Thursday evening, more than 125 community members concerned with an increase in deadly shootings and violent crime in Northeast neighborhoods of the Hill met with Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) First District Commander Morgan Kane, Fifth District Commander William Fitzpatrick and Councilmember Charles Allen (Ward 6-D). The meeting took place at the November meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6A, which sits at the intersection of the two police districts.

The boundary between the Fifth and First District currently lies along 15th Street NE, an area located in ANC 6A and where Kane and Fitzpatrick have worked to consolidate a police presence. ANC 6A is bounded on the northern boundary of ANC 6A runs along Benning Road NE, with a southern boundary at East Capitol, western roughly along Eighth Street NE and eastern line along 19th Street NE and into the RFK Campus.

Map showing Police Service Area (PSA) distribution in the area of ANC 6A. Courtesy: MPD

Community members said they were concerned with the uptick in crime. There have been nine homicides in ANC 6A so far this year. That’s four more homicides than at this point in 2017.

In a two-week span between Sept. 21 and Oct. 5, eight people were shot, seven fatally, in five separate incidents in the northeast area in and on the periphery of ANC 6A. There have been arrests in three of the five incidents. An arrest in a stabbing that took place the morning of the day of the meeting was announced Friday, the next day.

While crimes involving firearms have increased, other types of crimes have remained stable or even decreased relative to this time last year. According to MPD Data, while assaults with a dangerous weapon (ADW) have slightly decreased (42 ADW so far in 2018 and 46 at this point last year), the use of guns in ADW has increased. Although there were four fewer ADW, five more incidents involved a firearm. This holds true for other types of crime as well; while fewer robberies have taken place overall in ANC 6A (54, compared to 65 this time last year) there have been four more robberies with guns.

Other crimes that usually don’t involve the use of guns against victims, such as theft from cars and burglaries, have also decreased compared to last year: there were 14 fewer burglaries and 58 fewer thefts from vehicles.

Gun Recovery

Kane said that the increasing numbers of guns on the streets contributes to increased death and injury because some of homicides happen because a gun is introduced to an escalating argument. Fitzpatrick said that Fifth District had recovered 35 more guns this year than at this point in 2017.

Commissioner Malone acknowledged the difficulty in keeping guns out of the District, telling Councilmember Charles Allen (War 6-D), a resident of 6A who attended the meeting, to nonetheless see the issue as a priority. “Whatever you can do legislatively through the council, the feds, working with Virginia government to get stuff done, you have a mandate from our community. You should feel as empowered as you want to push this,” he said.

Volatile Situation

Fifth District Commander Fitzpatrick said that many of the shootings along Benning Road were related to gang violence, or what he referred to as infighting among a group of childhood friends who lived in the neighborhood.

“That’s why we have to have a strong presence,” he said, “because it became almost like a shoot-on-site type of thing. If they see somebody, they’re going to open fire.”

Four people were shot on September 21st in the 1800 block of Benning Road when a suspect chased a fifth individual into a parking lot. None of those shot was the intended target. In another incident Sept. 28th, a young girl on the 1600 block of E Street NE was hit by bullets as a man took to the sidewalks to flee gunmen pursuing him down 16th Street.

Fitzpatrick said that an officer has been placed on site at the Pentacle Apartments, after a Sept. 31st shooting related to the fighting groups. The victim, who lived in the complex, was also armed.

Fitzpatrick said that MPD were working to prevent a turf war at 18th and D Streets NE, after ATF and MPD NSID conducted a joint action to stop drug activity in the area. “I think 21 individuals were arrested, and very high up the chain, so chop the head off there, but that is not going to stop people from congregating,” Fitzpatrick said. “From our perspective, now this is an area where narcotics were sold, it’s open. Now we have to monitor it so we don’t have a little turf war coming in.”

“We’re not waiting for things to happen, we’re trying to get ahead,” he added.

“I don’t want you to think that we are even close to being happy with what’s going on,” said Commander Kane, noting that First and Fifth District were working together to discover the cause of the conflict between the neighborhood groups. “It becomes very difficult for us when we do have people that know each other and they don’t want to give us any information.”

“This is something that we have to work at.”

Ezequiel Fernando Jimenez-Pinto was shot on the 1300 block of D Street NE Tuesday, Oct.16 in what police say was a targeted shooting. The registered respiratory therapist was briefly home from a stint with the State Department when he was shot in his own neighborhood. Image: MPD

Neighbor Targeted

However, not all violent crime in the area is linked to gang disputes. On the morning before the meeting, a man was stabbed on the 1500 block of Benning Road NE. He died from punctures to his lungs.  Fitzpatrick said the stabbing was as a result of an escalated argument, and was unrelated to the shootings.

There were also two shootings in the space of two blocks and 11 days on D Street NE. On October 16th, neighborhood resident Fernando Jimenez-Pinto was shot on his own street in what police are calling a targeted killing. Commander Kane said that police had obtained video showing that a vehicle pulled up alongside Jimenez-Pinto as he sat in a car borrowed from an 84-year-old neighbor, aimed at him and fired. No arrests have been made, and neighbors say they are baffled by the crime.

Kane said that murder was bizarre, but ‘very targeted’ and that there was no reason for the community to be fearful.

 “It was a tragic, tragic shooting,” said Kane at Thursday’s meeting, adding that more information was needed. She encouraged residents to share video, saying that the video was tremendously useful in getting as far as they had on the case.

Kane said that the murder of Jimenez was not linked to the Oct. 5 shooting. On that day, a 32-year-old man was shot on the 1500 block of D Street SE.  That homicide was resolved within about three minutes, when First and Fifth District officers jointly deployed along 15th Street made a traffic stop, detaining and arresting a suspect as well as recovering two weapons before they even knew there had been a homicide.

Increased Presence

Fitzpatrick said the volatile area was a big priority for MPD and Chief Newsham, because they are aware that these groups of young people all live near one another are feuding.

Police presence has been increased. One officer has been placed in the parking lot of Pentacle Apartments parking lot. First and Fifth District officers are jointly deployed along 15th Street and the Maryland Ave corridor due to the instability in the area. There are also units along 16th Street and in Benning Court and Gales Pl. For a period, five cars were transferred from the Second District, and area including Georgetown and the Pallisades. Those units have been returned, but Fitzpatrick said an extra presence of 5-8 officers is provided every six weeks from the Patrol Support Team, consisting of the administrative and other personnel required to do street service for a week. He said these officers are deployed in PSA 507 on the north and south sides of Benning Road NE east of 15th Street and Bladensburg Road NE.

“Even though we’ve had some closures, I don’t think this thing is settled,” said Fitzpatrick. “I’m still very, very concerned with this internal beef. It’s not like these people got together and [just] met each other.”

For part II of the report from this meeting, discussing what residents can do, please read here.

Find out what MPD District and Police Service Area (PSA) you live in by searching your address online. Learn more about MPD Fifth District and First District members by visiting the linked online roster lists, which also contain their email addresses and telephone numbers. Visit the websites to learn more about the Private Security Camera Rebate Program and the Private Security Camera Voucher Program. Text images, videos or tips to the MPD Text Tip Line at 50411.

An earlier version of this article referred to the Pentacle Apartments as the Pinnacle Apartments. We regret the error.