Terrifying: Reader’s Car Shot Up While Driving Saturday Night; His Experience and Overall Frustration

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On Sunday morning we learned that four people were shot in the 2600 Block of Stanton Rd, SE. A reader comments:

“It is the reactions and post-mortem that stand out in my mind. It’s not so much that, just after sunset Saturday night on busy Stanton Rd. on the way back from the Giant that my car, at about 20 mph, ended up in the midst of some fore-to-aft crossfire between some teenagers who can’t shoot straight. Two bullet holes decorated my rear windshield, which did a good job of absorbing a lot of the energy, shattered like Bonomo Turkish Taffy.

My reaction was shock at first, then appreciation for the windshield’s dampening the bullets. The police assigned to examine for evidence had a callous attitude. When they arrived at 1 am and started examining the contents of my car without telling me, I came out and chatted with them about the news that four people had been injured in the shootings. I expressed the hope that none of the injuries were serious. One of the officers said, “Serious to them, but not to me.” Another officer tried to incorrectly explain to me that a bullet shot from a distance would have far less momentum and not be as likely to travel far after penetrating a window. I started to explain that traveling through the air doesn’t significantly retard a bullet’s velocity, but I thought better of it. As it turned out, the heater-lined rear windshield rendered each bullet as fragments, and I wasn’t in as much danger as I could have been in front of a plain glass windshield.

After thinking about my situation, I thought the Washington Post might be interested that my car was shot twice. I left my phone number with a reporter, but no one has called back. I have previously documented that the local news media have little interest in the travails of folks who live in Ward 8. I suppose I shouldn’t regret the lack of special attention because I am white. I live in Ward 8, so I don’t count for as much as someone in Ward 3, where I used to live.

My students took my brush with violence in stride. Students I spoke to in three different neighborhoods all heard shooting last night; the difference was no one apparently was hit, or at least no one called the police. They all know family members or friends who have been shot; it is part of life in Ward 8. One of my students owns a gun; he assured me he only uses it for special occasions. I told him he is much more likely to die because e owns that gun than otherwise. I have been told by more than one student that I need to get a gun.

The Seventh Police District overlaps much of Ward 8. However, the piece of land that covers Anacostia High School is part of the Sixth Police District. There is virtually no way for the police to get to know the young people in the community. They, and the community at large, write off the teenage Jesse Jameses as punks not worth our time or energy. There is no effort to steer middle school kids to make right decisions. During the winter, Metro was just about to reroute a key commuter bus away from Wellington Park because of the violence there when the police finally admitted that they might be able to help the Metrobuses navigate the route safely. Middle school kids were throwing rocks at the buses, and no one in the community was stopping it.

In the 60′s and 70′s, the catch phrase was, “Give a Damn.” Can we, please? Can we write about what we see and hear, even if it might not sell papers or attract viewers? Can we stand up to the callousness of government institutions like the police? Can we band together as neighbors and try to talk to our youth instead of letting them go every weekend to do what they want?”

55 Comment

  • this is why we have neighborhood blogs.
    thanks for sharing this story.

  • Well, I would actually start with your councilman…….. oh, yeah……. that.

  • “Serious to them, but not to me.”

    Holy…wow. Just wow.

    • Emmaleigh504

      I know! I get that police and fire fighters etc have gallows humor, but sharing it with random citizens, inappropriate much.

      • If you were a cop in Ward 8 and had to consistently deal with that type of violence for years, I’m sure that it would start to desensitize you after awhile.

        Some of these kids come from such socially destructive environments and unbelievably broken homes that they’re almost set up for failure, regardless of how many after-school programs and caring teachers may be in the picture.

        • Emmaleigh504

          I agree. I just don’t think they should be telling non police stuff like that. It’s not professional and gives the impression that that officer doesn’t care if the citizens he’s supposed to be serving and protecting die. I’m sure he doesn’t care, but it unprofessional to tell people.

          • Not only unprofessional, but harmful to their mission. I had police officers that were downright belligerent to me when I reported a crime, and it makes me hesitant to report crimes in the future. At best, it gives people the impression the police don’t care to do anything, and at worst it makes them scared to interact with the police. Either way it means fewer crimes get reported.

    • I dunno. The guy was working, and he’s probably seen a lot. Plus it was 1am, so he’s probably mostly worried about doing his job and getting the evidence preserved and correctly accounted for before getting caught in the middle of something else that could flare up. Seems to me like a pretty innocuous comment. I’m sure he HAS seen much, much worse. And why assume that what might be the questioner’s or victim’s “serious” is the cop’s standard, too? I’m hard-pressed to criticize a cop for being callous when he’s in service of his community being asked to deal with some pretty callous business on a routine basis. 1am cleaning up a crime scene with multiple shots fired in Ward 8 is not the time for community policing and outreach.

      • +1. I’m assuming that this is the first time that OP was witness to such violence. The cops that work in ward 8 see this sort of stuff with relative regularity. You don’t think it gets to them over time?

      • I have to respectfully disagree. Every time a police officer is out in the community is an opportunity for outreach and community policing. (With the exception of when they’re immediately engaged in pursuing a suspect or responding to some other type of dangerous emergency.) We all get jaded with aspects of our jobs, but a big part of professionalism is keeping a lid on that when you’re dealing with “customer” types (granted the stakes and stress are lower, but in a business situation, you wouldn’t tell a paying client how little you care about their crappy project and what a pain in the a** they are; for police, we, the community they serve, are essentially their customers). Maybe this wasn’t the intent, but making a flip comment like that sends the message that the police don’t really care if someone was seriously injured or not. What if the OP happened to be a friend or relative of a victim and heard that? What if word gets out in the community (not unlikely, given that this account is now on this blog and perhaps on others)? Bad experiences with one MPD officer leave individuals with a bad taste in their mouth about MPD in general (how many bad experiences have we read about on PoP, and how many negative affirmations ensue in the comment section)? As those bad stories pile up, it doesn’t exactly encourage people to tip off the police about suspects or illegal guns or whatnot–many people are already afraid to get involved, and it doesn’t help if people have the added impression that it’s not worth it because the police don’t care anyway.

    • My brother in law was probably one of the detectives that night. Hell, he might even have been the one who made that remark.

      You have no idea what he encounters on a daily basis. He’s shoveled remains into body bags, thrown out clothes too soaked in blood to come clean and had people die in the back seat of his car while he tried to get them to the hospital. Unless you’re willing to do the job yourself, do not judge.

      • “Unless you’re willing to do the job yourself, do not judge.”

        That’s ridiculous. One doesn’t need to be willing to join the police force in order to criticize it. You could use that same logic to protect any profession from criticism.

      • I can’t imagine what some police officers encounter daily, and I have the utmost respect for those who do the job with dedication. I totally get that police officers have their gallows humor or whatnot–I’m sure in all of our professions, we have inappropriate one-liners that we toss around with our colleagues to commiserate or vent our frustrations. But there are things you don’t say to your “public,” whoever that may be. I hope the officer in the OP’s account was just having an exceptionally bad night and made a rash verbal slip–not that the comment is reflective of the way he normally deals with the public. Yes, officers see gruesome sh*t every day, and yes I’m sure shootings become just numbers to them after dealing with so many. But the community *doesn’t* see that stuff every day (maybe more so in Ward 8 than some other Wards, but not every day) and to a friend or family member, a shooting victim isn’t just a “number.” Besides, in the long run, it benefits no one to make snarky, callous remarks about a gunshot victim. (If people ask if a victim was seriously injured, why not just stick with “I don’t know.” Simple and neutral.) Alienating concerned, law-abiding community members, is only going to make things harder, not easier, for the police to do their jobs.

  • Two bullets to the rear windshield is shot up? What is this, Mayberrysville?

    I kid. Seriously, glad you weren’t injured and hope some of the powers that be start to do a little more to help kids see trying to kill each other as a poor long term plan.

  • A taxi driver once told me that he is far more scared of the young gun toting gangsters in Petworth than the ones in Anacostia. Somehow I find that hard to believe. Every Ward 8 single mom I’ve ever worked with in my 20+ years in DC has lost a son to gun violence. It’s a travesty that our youth continue to play with guns and have such callous disregard for human life….

    • If you cross out every neighborhood cab drivers are afraid to go to you’re left with a very small area.

      • Meh, I think the list of neighborhoods that cabbies hate to visit is a bit fluid. When I moved to H Street NE in 2010, I could rarely flag one outside and they almost always gave me grief about going in that area. Never encounter that anymore. Never.

        • I live in Capitol Hill SE and still have issues with them. I guess H Street is more of a destination.

      • Plus, go sit on a Grand Jury like I did and you will find out why they hate certain areas. There are some scary stories in this town that don’t make the “Post” or this blog – but trust me, they happen.

        • Goes the other way around too. Myself and other women have been sexually assaulted by cab drivers but this epidemic is not often documented.

      • nor would the city ever get better.

  • About this: “There is no effort to steer middle school kids to make right decisions.”
    I heard a bit on NPR about a study regarding just that, with regard to use of force. They paired kids off (8-12 year olds, IIRC), gave kid A a ball, and told kid B to get the ball from kid A. Kid B tried to grab the ball away. The researchers then told kid B to ASK kid A for the ball. He did, and kid A handed it over. They taught the kids this simple tactic through a variety of situations, over a period of time. Over the following few years, The kids involved in the study had something like a 60% lower arrest rate than the control group kids.
    Can it really be that simple??

  • “Can we band together as neighbors and try to talk to our youth instead of letting them go every weekend to do what they want?”

    The people who live in these communities – Wards 7, 8 – are more afraid of these kids than the people in other Wards who come across them once in a blue moon.
    I don’t condone the cop’s response – for all he knew, the people who were shot could have been innocent bystanders. But it’s got to get old seeing people shot or shot at every day over nonsense.

  • People do an awful job “raising” their kids in Ward 8 and the rest of us have to pay for it. At some point, enough is enough. How long can you make excuses for this awful social behavior?

    • Untrue, and blanket statements like this only contribute to the idea that Ward 8 is hopeless and therefore acceptable to neglect and put out of our minds. Sure, there are some really terrible parents in Ward 8. (There are also terrible parents in plenty of other neighborhoods–and maybe it’s less apparent to the rest of us when that terrible parenting is going on behind closed doors in a gated community, and maybe the kids can weather the crap at home and come out ok because they’re buoyed by other things like nice friends and safe, decent schools.) But I have worked with many people in Ward 8 who perhaps have very limited resources but are nonetheless caring parents struggling to do the best they can to keep their kids healthy and safe in an environment that’s saturated with sh*tty schools, a scarcity of jobs and activities, violent crime, and tremendous peer pressure on youth.

  • Well-written recounting of your horrifying and frustrating experience and props to you as it sounds as if you are an AHS teacher.

    In the wake of the Zimmerman verdict, I have read so many times about black men being “lost to violence” and that “society finds them expendable”, which is akin to regretting the opportunity to work on a suntan during a hurricane. The real issue is that these young men are being murdered nearly exclusively by other young men. They are not being “lost” or considered “expendable” – they are flat-out being murdered in situations that nearly killed you. That is the outrage – that there are so many young men walking about who have murdered, or would murder. Nothing will change until it occurs to these individuals that they should not murder.

    • The fact that young black men are being murdered nearly exclusively by other young black men is not “the real issue.” It’s a very big issue, but it’s not the only issue. It is true that a 17-year old black male who dies from a violent act is far more likely to die at the hands of another black male than at the hands of a non-black person. But that is a separate issue from the tendency to assume that every young black male is a criminal – not based on objectively suspicious behavior but based upon skin color, and the dangerous situation that can create for every black male.

      • Thank you. I am so tired of those two issues being linked together. Jesus. (I’m not suggesting the original commenter meant to do that–I don’t know, and I’ll give the benefit of the doubt. But I have heard many, many other people use the “but young black men are killing each other!” rejoinder, as if that’s somehow a mitigating circumstance in incidents where people are racially profiled and where it ends in the violent death of an unarmed person.)

        • It’s emphasis:

          There are no words to describe the horror that happened to Trayvon Martin.

          There are no words to describe the horror that happened to a homicide victim times the number of homicide victims.

          • The real issue here is that by and large, black men don’t raise their children in DC. The lack of a father’s influence in a young man’s life is devastating and our community is paying the price every day. The problem of violence in places like Ward 8 will never go away until men man-up and take care of their responsibilities.

  • I’m not saying this is a magical solution–not at all, as the problems are far bigger and more structural and more entrenched, and it’s going to take more than individual efforts–but if you are looking for something tangible that you CAN do as an individual to maybe contribute something positive to a young person’s life, and ESPECIALLY if you are a man, I would urge you to consider volunteering to be a mentor. Not trying to knock the contributions of women (I’m one), but young boys need positive male role models. I’m relatively new in DC so I haven’t checked around here yet, but in past places I’ve lived, every organization I inquired with about mentoring has told me they have more female volunteers than they need, but a woeful shortage of male volunteers and lots of boys on the waiting list for a mentor. (Note: this is not directed at the OP, who it sounds like is already involved with youth as a teacher…just a general suggestion for anyone interested in this sort of thing.)

  • Travelling through the air does indeed significantly reduce bullet velocity. Play around with a ballistics calculator. The cop is essentially right, although that is of little practical use to someone who just wants to go to the grocery store in peace.

  • The problem in Ward 8 (and also in much of Wards 5 & 7) is the incredibly high rates of teen pregnancy. Looking back with the benefit of hindsight and a lot of extra years of growth and maturity, I can easily say I would have been a HORRIBLE parent if I had kids at 15 or 17 or even 19. And I would have turned into a miserable (and probably very, very poor) adult. A child simply cannot raise another child well. It’s incredibly difficult anywhere, but especially in a city like DC where the cost of living, the number of people competing against you for jobs with college and advanced degrees, and unemployment ALL so freaking high. And teen parents are screwed twice – first, they’re too inexperienced with life in general to teach a child how to navigate this world properly. Second, they’re too busy working as many jobs as they can get to earn enough to support their family to actually be there to raise it. I honestly think that the only hope for these areas is an intense campaign to provide birth control and sex education to these children and abortion services to those who end up pregnant anyway and do not want to keep the pregnancy. At least then some of these children will be able to grow up and possibly get out of poverty before they start the new generation of their families, and that will be the biggest boost to that new generation that anyone can give them – being born to a family that planned you and wanted you and was able to provide for you.

  • Anybody have any idea when MRAP’s will start being sold surplus?

  • figby

    Totally agree about the 7th District. Too many commenters on PoP really want their cops to be Mayberry RFD upright citizens, getting cats out of trees, knowing everyone on the block and protecting and serving with a big, “Officer Friendly” smile. This city is a shitshow, let’s let them do their job without thinking we know how they ought to be doing it better (with all of our armchair expertise). Sometimes they are awful and there are plenty of bad cops — but I defer to the guys who get shot at on the regular to not flip out when someone’s rear window gets shot out.

    • They don’t have to be Mayberry RFD, but clearly there is a lot of room for improvement. No one has an obligation to accept such apathetic treatment from the police just because it’s the status quo. Sure, they have a hard job. So why not do something to make it better, instead of putting our collective heads in the sand? Ignoring the problem has not done anything to fix the problem.

  • Mr. Wonderbread is shocked about shooting in SE? Has he only been living there a week? And no, the police care about not having their brainpan dented, they could give two shits about your car. You lived, didn’t you? Why the hell were you out there at 1am – or to be more precise, why the hell are you even trying to live there?

    You complain with the whiny petulance of someone volunteering to dig trenches in a warzone, then acts all surprised when a grenade comes tumbling down into your foxhole. I’m not sure if you’re just completely mental, or have some deficiency that turns every problem into a “look at me” moment.

    Of course the press didn’t care, you’re not a celebrity, you don’t make 250k a year and SE is a shooting gallery from the bad boys who decide crime is the only option. Perhaps next time choose your surroundings more carefully, and yeah – I’d get a gun, but you would probably end up shooting yourself in the foot, while complaining about the lack of cell signal on your new iPhone.

    • how many times has your car been shot up while you were in it? for people with any semblance of an intellect, this is always shocking, your cute epitaphs aside.

      • Your reply can be summarized thusly:

        “How many times has happened to you?”

        Guess what, I work hard in assessing my surroundings and understanding the dynamics of the same. The reason MY car doesn’t get shot up – is because I’m not a simpleton driving around at SE at 1 in the morning thinking everything is going to be JUST FINE.

        That’s the difference, I don’t put myself in shitty situations, other people apparently can’t be helped from doing the same.

  • Why did you move there? Plain and simple, why? Did you think that being white will make you immune to what has plagued ward 8 now for decades? As adults and particularly as intelligent adults we all make choices and hopefully they are intelligent ones. You made your choice when you moved there! Listen to your students get a gun or listen to your own wisdom get the hell out of there….

    • i guess you could take that negative opinion. personally i think that decent people moving into bad neighborhoods is one way that places get better.
      many neighborhoods that popvillians regularly enjoy are the way they are because idealists help change things.

      • I love responses like these – see, the whole area is ‘bad’. Actually, its usually just a few knuckleheads that are causing the problems. But your sweeping hidden racism aside, “good” people moving into neighborhoods isn’t the solution. I’d like less idiots moving in, thanks – especially those that think SE just needs a few more clueless across-the-river kids to help make things “better”.

        You want to know why a lot of people get mugged, stabbed and shot in DC? Some is neighborhood violence, and some are a bunch of fools coming across the river who think the rules bend and people MUST simply like them because they’re there. Guess what, there are whole crews of kids, who, for their own reasons, go “hunting” for you and your wallets/purses, because largely you’re a bunch of idiots.

        It is the aura of complete ineptitude that gets most visitors in trouble, vis-a-vi “I was driving in SE last night at 1am, OH MAH GOSH – SHOOTING”. Yeah, no shit sherlock, you managed to bumble your way into where you shouldn’t be, AGAIN.

  • Thanks for all your comments. For the record, I run an organization, Resources for Inner city CHildren (RICH), that provides tutoring and mentoring at Anacostia High School and the Cesar Chavez Public Charter School. I’ve written a lot about what life is like in Anacostia, especially for my students, in my blog, innercityvisions.blogspot.com.

    I appreciate the sentiments of The Sentinel. However, I was deploring not the incident but the cynicism about it. The Sentinel’s comments drive home that point.

  • If you’re inhumane enough not to care that human beings have been shot, you’re pretty much already in the “unprofessional” camp when it comes to being a police officer. Empathy is a key (and overlooked) part of being successful at that job. It’s how you help citizens who are related to victims, how you get witnesses to talk, etc.

    Who wants to give information to someone who doesn’t appear to care if you live or die?

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