D.C. ‘Safe Passage’ worker shot, critically wounded outside high school

Washington Post photo by Jahi Chikwendiu
Tenika McEachin, a Safe Passage worker, stands guard outside an elementary school on Jan. 12, 2023, in Washington, D.C. On Jan. 30, a man who works with the D.C. program was shot and critically wounded near a high school in the city.

A man working with D.C.’s Safe Passage Safe Blocks program to help students commute safely to and from city schools was shot and critically wounded Monday afternoon near Coolidge High School in Northwest Washington, according to police.

The shooting occurred during a dispute shortly before 3 p.m., about a half-hour before students at the high school were to be dismissed, police said. It occurred amid a cluster of schools that includes Coolidge, Ida B. Wells Middle School and Whittier Elementary School, which police said were put into lockdown for part of the afternoon.

Police said the victim was not on duty when he was shot, but he was wearing a “Safe Passage” vest. It couldn’t immediately be learned whether the victim was assigned to the safe passage routes at Coolidge or one of the other schools in that immediate area.

No arrest has been made, but police said they believe the shooter fled in a vehicle. The victim was not identified Monday night; police said he was at a hospital, and they described his wounds as life-threatening.

Safe Passage was launched in D.C. in 2017 to address concerns about youth safety, including intimidation, harassment and threats of violence that young people face on their commutes to and from school.

The city issues grants to community organizations, which are then responsible for placing adults along specific routes. The program has expanded to include 52 campuses and 160 workers, who are posted outside schools and tasked with keeping an eye out for danger.

Amid a recent surge of youth violence, some school officials and residents have expressed concern about the program’s effectiveness, particularly as students continue to be killed or injured near schools.

D.C. police Cmdr. Carlos Heraud, who heads the 4th District station, and detectives are collecting video from area surveillance cameras and seeking other video from homes and businesses.

“Gun violence as a whole is unacceptable,” Heraud said. “Anytime it hits this closes to our children, it’s even more egregious. Children should be able to come to school, be safe while they’re at school, and leave school safely.”

School officials said Coolidge students were dismissed about an hour later than usual. Heraud said students at all three schools were let out on a side street “as far away from the crime scene as possible.”

He said no student or child should have to “go around crime scene tape to go home.”