Seven people, including an 11-year-old boy, have been shot dead since Thursday in Washington. D.C. amid an, police said Monday. Eleven-year-old Karon Brown was fatally shot in Southeast Washington Thursday after a dispute broke out between a group and someone fired into the car the boy was riding in, police said. The child was reportedly on his way to football practice. He was driven to a fire station for help and later died at a Maryland hospital.
Police on Saturday charged 29-year-old Tony Antoine McClam with second-degree murder. CBS Washington, D.C. affiliate WUSA-TV reports there's video showing a man police identify as McClam running near the scene holding a gun.
"Some adult felt like it was OK to discharge a gun in our community, and an 11-year-old boy has lost his life as a result," Washington Metropolitan Police Chief Peter Newsham said at a press conference Monday.
Mayor Muriel Bowser said she has spoken to Karon's mother.
"It is, as you can imagine, heartwrenching," Bowser said. "You can also imagine a mom in total shock."
McClam allegedly told detectives he, an adult friend, and two kids confronted Karon after McClam's 9-year-old stepson was attacked by a group of children, reports WUSA9's Bruce Leshan. Court documents say McClam claimed he didn't see the boy in the back seat of the car and opened fire when the driver reached down, as if to grab a gun, Leshan reports.
Investigators, however, say there's no indication McClam fired in self-defense. Investigators haven't yet determined a motive, and Newsham said it's not clear whether the boy was targeted.
"It's unimaginable an 11-year-old would ever be an intended target, but we have not ruled that out at this point," Newsham said. He said tips from the community helped identify McClam as the suspect.
Six other people were shot dead over the weekend in what Newsham called "equally tragic" acts of violence. Friday, 17-year-old Ahkii Washington-Scruggs and his 57-year-old father, Hugh Washington, were found fatally shot in a Northeast Washington home. Newsham said the killings do not appear to be domestic and police are searching for the perpetrator.
Early Saturday, a 23-year-old man was found suffering from multiple gunshot wounds in Southeast Washington and was transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Newsham said. Also on Saturday, around 10:30 p.m., police responding to a report of shots fired in Northwest Washington found a male at a local hospital in grave condition suffering from gunshots. He later died.
Early Sunday, police found a 34-year-old man suffering from multiple gunshot wounds on a Northwest Washington street. He was pronounced dead at a hospital. And Sunday night, a 27-year-old man was found shot dead in a Southeast Washington alleyway.
Newsham said the recent spate of gun violence is "particularly disturbing." Though the number of homicides have dropped overall in the nation's capital since peaking in the early 1990s, Washington saw 160 murders in 2018 compared to 116 in 2017 — a 38% increase. And so far in 2019, the district has recorded 94 murders, up from 85 at the same time last year, according to online police data. Though many major U.S. cities saw decreases in homicides in 2018, the nation's capital was among the cities that instead saw significant increases.
Newsham said police are "working diligently" to solve the latest cases and urged anyone with information to come forward. He pointed to an increase of illegal guns in the city and called for tougher penalties for offenders caught with illegal firearms. Bowser and Newsham urged anyone who has knowledge of someone with an illegal gun to call police.
Bowser said the city is investing in intervention programs to target people who might be at risk of committing violence to connect them with mediators and social services.
"Let us know about people you know are prepared to use [illegal firearms,] have access to them and may need the critical help of the government," Bowser said. "Let us know before they kill somebody. Let us know before they ruin their own lives by committing this tragic homicide."