Gun violence in the District is continuing to rise. In her August 10 situational update, Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) called the most recent incident — an August 9th shooting at a block party that killed 17-year-old Christopher Brown, critically injured an off-duty police officer and injured 22 bystanders — an “enormous tragedy.”
Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Chief Peter Newsham said the shooting occurred at a planned gathering on the 3300 block of Dubois Place, SE around 12:20 a.m. Newsham said a preliminary investigation indicates over 100 rounds were fired on the scene of the shooting, and multiple shooters fired simultaneously. The organizers of the party, which well exceeded Bowser’s 50-person limit on mass gatherings, did not have a permit, Newsham said.
Brown, the father of an infant, died after being transported to a local hospital. The off-duty police officer initially remained in critical condition, though her condition has since improved.
“I can’t recall a situation where we have that many folks injured by gunfire in one incident in my career,” he said.
Six officers already on the scene responded after hearing gunshots, but Newsham said there were not enough officers on the scene to handle the large crowd. He added that MPD will look into the response.
In line with rising gun violence rates across cities nationwide, homicide in the District is up by 20 percent between 2019 and 2020. Around 570 people have been shot in non-fatal shootings this year. In the last seven days, 46 people have been shot, including six juveniles, Bowser said.
Bowser said gun violence, which she partially attributed to the possession of illegal firearms among minors, is another crisis in addition to COVID-19. In response to questions from reporters about issuing a tougher order on large gatherings, Bowser said these questions missed the point.
“Is it against the law to carry a weapon… and shoot it at three people, or at a group of a few hundred?” she asked. “Do I need a Mayor’s Order order for that?”
“We don’t want people gathering for COVID, certainly, but we also don’t want a young person to think it’s okay to go to a block party where likely there are a lot of people there with guns,” she added.
Newsham echoed Bowser’s concerns, saying that MPD has maintained a weekly list of planned large events despite limits on gatherings.
Bowser said curbing gun violence is a crisis Council, community leaders, ANC commissioners and faith leaders must all fully embrace.
Eva Herscowitz is a journalism student at Northwestern University currently interning with Capital Community News. She writes for Northwestern’s student newspaper, The Daily Northwestern. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org