WASHINGTON – A 6-year-old girl was killed and five adults were injured in a nighttime shooting on Friday, horrifying neighborhood residents and frustrating investigators who begged the public to help them catch those responsible.
At a press conference on Saturday night, city leaders mourned the loss of a young life, identifying the girl who was killed as Nyiah Courtney, who is said to have started freshman in the fall.
She was driving her scooter on the sidewalk when she was shot.
“My heart is broken,” said Robert J. Contee, chief of the Metropolitan Police Department. He said those in charge were “cowards who entered the community with no regard for human life”, adding: “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired”.
Police said shots were fired from a gray sedan which quickly fled.
Nyiah was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital. The five adults who were injured did not have life-threatening injuries, police said.
Officials suggested the shooting was the result of a personal dispute, but said they could not confirm a motive. Police were already near the scene at the time, officials said, noting that an officer got out of a car 34 seconds after the first shot was fired.
“This should tell you the audacity of the people involved,” said Chief Contee.
Shots were reported at 11:11 p.m. near an intersection in the south-eastern quadrant of the capital.
Ashan M. Benedict, the department’s executive deputy chief of police, said at a separate press briefing on Saturday that officers heard gunshots on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and rushed to them. places.
Speaking with anger and urgency, officials pleaded with the community to take responsibility for helping make their neighborhood safer.
“Nyiah was killed; someone else could be killed tonight, ”Mayor Muriel Bowser said. “It is also very important that while we search for the assassins of Nyiah, we also prevent the next murder, and that falls within our sphere of influence as a community. “
A team of officers organized a bicycle patrol in addition to a dozen patrol cars that were parked in the area. But police chiefs have made it clear that increasing patrols will not be enough.
“I need calls,” said Chief Contee. ” I need advice. Send me smoke signals.
Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue is lined with retail stores, including a convenience store and liquor store. But the main thoroughfare branches off into narrower, tree-lined streets, with hundreds of houses behind chain-link fences.
As the evening settled in and a fine rain fell, a bunch of balloons tied around the corner in memory of the victims of the shooting had grown to several dozen.
Novella Holiday, who lives near the scene of the shooting, said she was not surprised by the violence. During the day, the shops and sidewalks along the avenue are largely filled with families, most with young children, but at night shootings are common, she said.
“It saddens me,” Ms. Holiday said on Saturday morning as she sat on her porch. She said that since moving into her house four years ago she had heard gunshots repeatedly.
“It’s very disturbing,” Ms. Holiday said. “If I had done it my way, the guns would disappear.”
Ephrame Kassaye, the longtime owner of Mellon Market, a convenience store one block from the scene of the shooting, said he knew Nyiah, who called him “Curly.”
“She had a sister who was 4.5 years old,” he said. “I don’t know how they’re going to explain to her where her sister went.
The shootings have left several residents feeling hopeless about how to curb the violence. Some noted that the shooting occurred one block from where a patrol car was parked.
“The problem is not the lack of police presence,” said Salim Adofo, chairman of the neighborhood advisory commission. “The problem is, people don’t care.
Last year, homicide rates in major US cities rose by more than 30 percent on average, according to criminologists. With the restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic across the country retreating, police departments have raised concerns about the potential for increased violence this summer.
But in Washington, metropolitan police data indicates that as of Friday, the number of homicides so far this year – 101 – is exactly the same as at this point in 2020.
Maria Cramer contributed reporting.