- Washington Post
Motorist Fatally Shot in Spate of Carjackings in D.C., Maryland
12:30 JST, January 31, 2024
Police fatally shot a man early Tuesday who they believe committed or tried to commit at least four carjackings in Washington, D.C., and suburban Maryland and also opened fire on two occupied police vehicles in separate locations in a span of less than 10 hours, leaving one motorist dead of a gunshot wound and another critically injured, according to law enforcement officials.
Even for a region racked by an epidemic of carjackings in the past year, the violence, starting early Monday evening in the District, was a stunning rampage. There were five reported attacks in all, including three carjackings, one attempted carjacking and one shooting that police said might have been an additional carjacking attempt.
The mayhem ended a few hours before dawn Tuesday in Prince George’s County, where two officers with the New Carrollton police fatally shot the suspect after he confronted them with two guns, authorities said.
The first attack occurred shortly before 6 p.m. Monday outside office buildings on K Street NW, near Mount Vernon Square. A man sitting in a vehicle was targeted, apparently while waiting to pick up his wife at her workplace, according to police and a witness. He was shot in the head in what police said might have been a carjacking attempt and was hospitalized in critical condition.
A woman who walked by moments after the shooting, still in daylight, said she saw the victim in a dress shirt and sweater, sprawled on the pavement with one foot still in the passenger’s side of a car. His right hand was twitching as blood pooled around his head.
The witness, Yolanda Douglas, 39, said a woman ran out of a K Street building, screaming, “Oh, my God, that’s my husband.” Douglas said the woman ran toward her husband and grabbed his hand. “What happened?” she asked, but he did not respond.
The other incidents included three carjackings and one attempted carjacking, police said. They said a victim of one of the carjackings was fatally shot.
Police from four departments in the D.C. area described hours of harrowing violence and an urgent hunt for the assailant. Authorities said they worked through the night at a frenetic pace, linking the carjackings and shootings, identifying a suspect and searching for him amid reports of attacks in scattered places, from Laurel, Md., to the southeastern edge of the District.
These crimes differed from other carjackings that have plagued the Washington region: Police said they do not believe the suspect was acting for profit or material gain but out of mental illness. D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) called the shootings “indiscriminate” and said “we have families who are suffering because of it.” At a news conference Tuesday morning, she added, “The violence we saw … was unthinkable.”
The overnight bloodshed came after carjackings in the District in 2023 soared past 950, more than double the previous year’s total, amid a broader increase in crime in the city. Carjackings in D.C. have dropped 21 percent during the first month of this year, compared with the same period in 2023. More than half of this year’s carjackings involved firearms, according to police statistics.
D.C. Police Executive Assistant Chief Jeffery Carroll said the rampage began about 5:45 p.m. in the 900 block of K Street NW. He said the assailant got into a parked vehicle that was occupied, shot the victim, then apparently fled on foot. Police were trying to determine whether the incident was an attempted carjacking.
Carroll said the victim managed to exit the vehicle before collapsing to the pavement.
Douglas said she was walking home from a UPS store when she saw the woman running toward the wounded man at the vehicle. She said she moved close to the woman, called 911 and put the operator on speaker, pleading for help. Douglas listened to the wife answer the operator’s questions, hand still clasping her husband’s.
The wife told the 911 operator that her husband had just phoned her to say, “Hey, I’m downstairs,” Douglas said. She and the wife desperately looked for something to use to put pressure on his head wound. Another woman ran over with a scarf, Douglas said, and pressed it hard against the man’s head.
Douglas said she started to pray aloud. “God, please cover him,” she implored. “Spare his life, send us help.”
Ambulances arrived. As emergency medical personnel lifted the man on a gurney, Douglas said, she saw a car key drop from somewhere on his body. It clinked on the pavement. Then, another small metal object fell.
“That’s a shell casing,” one of the first responders said, realizing that the man had been shot.
About an hour later, at 7:05 p.m., police said, the suspect tried to carjack another vehicle, in the 1000 block of Third Street NE but was unsuccessful.
About 10 minutes after that, Carroll said, the man confronted another driver, in the 1200 block of Third Street NE, near the NoMa Gallaudet Metro station, a little more than a mile from the K Street attack. Carroll said the assailant fatally shot the victim and stole a 2016 gray Chrysler 200.
Carroll said that by this time, investigators suspected the same assailant was responsible for the three attacks. He said a person who was interviewed by investigators at the K Street scene knew the suspected shooter and helped police identify him. They put an image of a man on the social media platform X, formerly Twitter, and broadcast an alert for the Chrysler, which police found abandoned a short time later in Prince George’s County, Carroll said.
Police said the man then carjacked a Toyota Camry from a ride-share driver in Takoma Park in Montgomery County. After that, police said, he carjacked a Nissan Rogue in University Park in Prince George’s County.
Authorities said that about 2:30 a.m. Tuesday, someone in a Nissan shot at a Maryland State Police cruiser stopped at the scene of a disabled vehicle along southbound Interstate 95 at Route 198. A state police spokeswoman said the trooper saw the Nissan crossing lanes, heading toward his cruiser, and thought a drunk driver was at the wheel. The trooper was climbing out of the cruiser when a bullet struck its hood. He was not injured.
A half-hour later, Carroll said, the Nissan was used in a drive-by shooting of a marked D.C. police cruiser on D.C. 295 at exit 1. Carroll said at least one bullet struck the driver’s side door. The officer was not hurt.
About 4:30 a.m., Carroll said, New Carrollton police officers located the Nissan on Annapolis Road, a commercial strip also known as Route 450, in Prince George’s County. Thomas Lester, a spokesman for the Maryland Attorney General’s Office, which investigates fatal shootings involving police in Maryland, said the vehicle appeared to be disabled in the roadway.
While officers were looking for the driver, Lester said, a man walked up to them and displayed two firearms. Lester said both officers fired at the man, who was pronounced dead at a hospital. He said two firearms were recovered at the scene. He said the New Carrollton officers were equipped with body-worn cameras and that investigators were working to determine if the incident was captured on video.
Lester declined to say how many times the suspect had been shot. But he said multiple shell casings were recovered from the scene.
Last week, a law enforcement think tank organized a gathering in Washington for prosecutors, police and criminologists from across the country to discuss carjackings. The nation’s capital and its suburbs have emerged as an epicenter of the crime, with public safety officials in the region broadly defending their respective approaches to combating such offenses while acknowledging that the volume of carjackings has reached a crisis point.
At a D.C. Council breakfast Tuesday, Bowser called for a full “reset” of the city’s criminal justice system as she urged lawmakers to pass the SecureDC omnibus bill, which is set for a vote next week. She said the legislation would toughen gun laws and make it easier for police to do their jobs.
“We’ve advanced some critical legislation” dealing with criminal justice, the mayor said. “But we’re not finished.”
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