Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Opinion | Serial offenders drive the spike in gun violence in D.C.

Opinion | Serial offenders drive the spike in gun violence in D.C.

Parents of children attending Stanton Elementary School on Naylor Road SE received a letter Monday from principal Allen Richardson that said: “This afternoon at approximately 1:35 p.m., school administration was alerted to gunshots near our campus. We immediately called the [D.C. police] as students who were outside were quickly brought back into the building by staff during a reverse evacuation. … We went into a lockdown.”

“Bullets from the gunfire did strike and lodge into the windows of two of our classrooms,” Richardson wrote. “No one was injured, and with both classrooms, the damage to the windows was discovered during a sweep following the lockdown.”

What can parents say to their children about safety in the neighborhood, when only two hours after bullets struck Stanton Elementary, and just a few blocks away in the 2300 block of Green Street SE, 16-year-old Jamal Jones was shot to death?

Also, what can the parents of children attending Dunbar High School in Northwest say about safety in their neighborhood? On Tuesday, shortly after 16-year-old Maurice Jackson Jr. left the school, and less than two blocks away from the building, someone produced a gun and fired multiple times, killing him. Dunbar, my alma mater, is scheduled to celebrate homecoming this Saturday. With the loss of Jackson, a junior interested in entrepreneurship and architecture, some in the community will instead be observing a homegoing.

Jackson was the 19th person under 17 killed in the District this year. He was also the second person killed Tuesday afternoon. Kamal Jones, 21, was caught in crossfire between two cars on Savannah Street SE.

They are among the 214 people slain in D.C. so far this year. That’s 11 more than in all of 2022 — with three months to go.

Crime, without question, is outrunning crimefighting. Compared with last year, homicides are up 37 percent, robberies 66 percent and motor vehicle thefts a stunning 106 percent. (With increased car insurance premiums to follow?) Police have closed 44 percent of homicide cases — the lowest rate in at least 16 years, according to The Post.

People don’t feel safe. And most don’t fear “state-sanctioned violence,” shorthand for the police misconduct that some justice advocates ascribe to local cops. D.C. residents certainly understand that there are rogue cops in the ranks. They also know that perpetrators of violence aren’t the men and women in blue but people in masks and hoodies who roam the streets with guns in their waistbands.

And besieged residents want safety, justice and answers.

Washingtonians can’t be blamed for wanting to know how the justice system has handled Koran Gregory, the 19-year-old suspect in the killing of 10-year-old Arianna Davis, who was caught in the crossfire of a Mother’s Day gunfight and whose bullet wound proved fatal three days later.

According to court records summarized by The Post, Gregory’s first gun possession case occurred when he was arrested after an armed robbery at age 14. His case was dismissed by D.C. prosecutors. When he was 17, prosecutors in the D.C. attorney general’s office charged him as a juvenile with five offenses, including carrying a pistol without a license and resisting arrest. Two months later, Gregory pleaded guilty to possessing an unregistered firearm and possession of ammunition without registration. In exchange for his pleas, the D.C. attorney general’s office agreed not to charge him with additional crimes, including a carjacking offense, or to seek secure detention. Gregory was placed on probation, which was scheduled to end on Dec. 22, 2022. But the judge granted him early termination on Dec. 8 because his attorney said the effort of getting him to his probation appointments posed a financial hardship to Gregory’s mother.

This time around, Gregory is charged with first-degree murder and was ordered held without bond.

There are other cases of people being charged, convicted and yet back on the streets doing the same stuff that got them busted in the first place.

I have in mind Jimmy Martez Ellis, a.k.a. “Big Oso” and “Jim Bob,” who was sentenced to 60 months in prison on June 26 for unlawful possession of firearms.

As part of his plea deal, Ellis admitted that he was arrested in April 2020 in possession of a loaded handgun and that he was arrested again in August 2021 with another loaded handgun. He admitted that as a convicted felon, he wasn’t legally allowed to possess either gun.

“Big Oso” was also convicted of burglary in 2013 and sentenced to 10 years in jail — with nine years suspended — and three years’ probation.

Then there’s Jermaine Dukes, sentenced on July 7 for unlawful possession of a firearm and possession with intent to distribute large amounts of marijuana. Dukes was prohibited from possessing a gun because he had two previous felony convictions for gun crimes. From 2011 to 2017, Dukes had four criminal convictions related to possession and distribution of controlled substances or illegal firearm possession. He also had seven other arrests. His track record while on supervision in the community was putrid.

D.C. has an abundance of people who return to criminal activity following arrests and convictions. Cops, prosecutors, judges and justice advocates know it. Yet they can’t agree on the appropriate judicial measures for serial offenders. That’s why bullets fly through schoolhouse windows and bodies keep falling to the ground. The lack of a consensus on remedies is a damn shame. The mayor, council and criminal justice bigwigs know that, too.

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