By Dan Morse, Peter Hermann and Salvador Rizzo Updated May 19, 2023 at 12:41 p.m. EDT|Published May 18, 2023 at 8:45 p.m. EDT
An 18-year-old was fatally shot on a rush-hour Metro platform in Montgomery County on Thursday evening as residents and leaders in the area wrestle with the latest spate of gun violence among teenagers and young adults.
“It goes, I think, to the lawlessness of these guys these days,” said Montgomery Police Chief Marcus Jones. “This case and what you see in D.C. and Prince George’s are sad. These guys have no regard for human life.”
Over an 1½-hour stretch, five shootings in the three jurisdictions wounded or killed six people. The victims included a 14-year-old girl who was shot outside an apartment complex in the Riverdale area of Prince George’s. Sheremained hospitalized in critical condition Friday. That county’s police chief, echoing Jones, lamented how quickly people are to resolve disputes with gunfire.
“We’re past the point of things getting out of hand,” Prince George’s County Police Chief Malik Aziz said.
Violent crime totals in Prince George’s are essentially unchanged this year compared with the same period a year ago, according the police department’s statistics. Homicides are down (27 compared with 35), while nonfatal shootings are up (104 compared with 98).
In the District, the fatal shooting of 47-year-old Leonard Carter in the Edgewood community brought the number of homicides in D.C. this year to 85, a 10 percent increase from this time last year.
“I said very plainly I’m not satisfied with it, and I want our whole system to be working urgently to drive those crimes down,” D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said Friday during an appearance on “The Politics Hour” with Kojo Nnamdi.
The incidents began at 5:20 p.m., when assailants drove into a 7-Eleven parking lot along New Hampshire Avenue, about one mile south of the Capital Beltway, officials said. They fired at two men sitting in the parking lot and drove off. One of the victims was taken to a hospital in serious condition and the other received non-life-threatening injuries, according to a police spokesman.
Some 18 minutes later, gunfire that hit the 14-year-old girl erupted five miles away in Prince George’s County. Aziz said it appears that multiple guns were fired through vehicles parked outside a building.
Back in Montgomery County, at 5:53 p.m., an altercation broke out between two groups on an escalator at the Wheaton Metro station. It intensified, leading to the shooting of 18-year-old Tenneson Vaughn Leslie Jr. on the platform. He was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Responding police searched surrounding areas for assailants who got away.
“It’s jarring and understandably heightens everyone’s concerns over public safety,” Montgomery County Councilmember Gabe Albornoz (D-At Large) said of the Wheaton shooting. “It was in a very public place. It was during the day. It was so brazen.”
Twelve months ago, Albornoz said that youth violence in Montgomery was increasing to a volume he’d never seen before and called the issue “a massive problem with no easy solution.”
Albornoz said the numbers have since leveled off, citing efforts by the county’s Street Outreach Network, which tries to pull youths from gangs as well as the county’s post-covid restarting of recreation programs. “We continue to double-down on youth harm reduction programs,” he said. “I feel like we have a better handle on things than we did last year.”
Killings of children spark outrage, frustration over violence in D.C.
Thus far this year, Montgomery Police have recorded 79 shootings, an increase from the 66 for the same period last year, Jones said. In 20 of the incidents this year, police confirmed a victim had been hit, Jones added.
Investigators are studying Metro video, Jones said. They have spoken with witnesses, but have yet to hear detailed or solid information, including what the groups were arguing about, the chief added.
Five days ago, gunfire broke out about 10:30 p.m. along Fenwick Lane, leaving 20-year-old Jedidiah Kehiku Ogboi-Gibson dead in a parking lot. Investigators collected 17 shell casings. “It was a big crime scene,” Jones said. “Guys in cars were shooting at each other. Luckily no one else was hit. … To me, that was as alarming as having a shooting in the Metro platform.”
Detectives are working the case hard, he said, but are struggling to get information from witnesses.
“It’s going, but it’s not going very fast,” Jones said. “We haven’t had any cooperation.”
While plenty of attention has been paid to the lasting effects of the pandemic on young people — specifically the suspension of school and youth programs — Jones cited two factors he sees as bigger drivers in gun violence among teenagers and young adults: the growing availability of guns and the continued light penalties for being caught with illegally possessing them.
Jones said black-market gun sellers can purchase ghost guns at shows and sell them on the streets. “It’s a cash business, basically a prolific business,” Jones said. “That market is all around us. These kids know who to go to. And we as a community aren’t talking about it enough.”
Thursday evening’s shootings ended with two just eight minutes apart in the District.
Carter, the 47-year-old, was shot at 6:47 p.m. in the 300 block of Franklin Street NE near a recreation center and south of a college campus. Around 6:55 p.m., police said, a man was shot and critically injured at First and Q streets NW, in Truxton Circle. No other details have been released about either shooting, and no arrests were made.
So far this year, D.C. police have recorded 48 juveniles shot, compared with 24 over the same period a year ago.
The shootings Thursday added to a week thatclaimed six lives in D.C. since Sunday, including a 10-year-old girl riding in a vehicle and a student killed outside his school. The slayings on Mother’s Day of 10-year-old Arianna Davis, a fifth-grader, and of Jefferson Perez, a 17-year-old shot Wednesday afternoon in the parking lot of the school he attended, Roosevelt High in Petworth, shocked a city already contending with growing violence.
Police have said Arianna was in a vehicle with her parents and siblings when a stray bullet from a barrage of gunfire struck her in the Mayfair community. Police said Perez was shot during an altercation and that a firearm was recovered at the scene.
His grandmother, Sonia Ferrufino, said Friday that the family — owing to safety concerns — had migrated from El Salvador to the United States. On Friday, they were making funeral arrangements.
“We’re in a very rough shape,” Ferrufino said.
Ferrufino hoped those responsible will be arrested soon.
“The police have to find them, because they already have clues as to who they are,” she said.
Bowser was asked on the Kojo Nnamdi show Friday to respond to claims from some Republican members of Congress that there’s a state of “lawlessness” in the District. She that gun violence was a national problem that is not specific to D.C. — though she acknowledged a “troubling increase” in some crime categories, including shootings and homicides.
“Nobody can be satisfied with that,” the mayor said.
The mayor said conversations about public safety in the city often get bogged down by finger-pointing blaming certain officials or agencies for rising crime.
“At the end of the day, people in neighborhoods across D.C. aren’t interested in squabbling over who should do what,” Bowser said. “Regardless of who’s directly responsible for prosecution or sentencing, I’m the mayor, and I work hard every day to make sure all the pieces of our system are working to make our city safer.”
Michael Brice-Saddler, Clarence Williams, Jasmine Hilton, Dana Hedgpeth, Magda Jean-Louis and Janay Kingsberry contributed to this report.