The fatal shooting of a middle school student has sparked public concern as the nation’s capital grapples with growing tensions over serious crime and racial justice.
Police said they found 13-year-old Karen Blake early Saturday morning with multiple gunshot wounds after she was shot by a local resident who said Blake had been breaking into cars in the area.
According to the police media report on the incident, the resident “heard noises and observed someone who appeared to be tampering with vehicles. The man went outside, armed with a registered firearm, to make a further inspection. There was an interaction between a male juvenile and the occupant. During the interaction, the resident discharged his firearm, striking the victim.
Blake died of his injuries in hospital and his death sparked a fierce public response from activists demanding that the shooter be arrested and his name made public.
The shooter has not been charged with a crime or publicly identified, but police and the U.S. Attorney’s Office say the investigation is ongoing.
A community meeting Tuesday night drew more than 300 angry citizens who packed a community center near Brookland Middle School, which Blake attended.
“I didn’t know you could just kill someone for property damage. It’s just crazy,” said Sean Long, the teenager’s grandfather.
Struggling to speak over the screams of the crowd, Assistant Police Chief Morgan Kane of the Metropolitan Police Department said he could not share the shooter’s identity or any details about the ongoing investigation.
“We want the same thing you want,” Kane said. “We want to find out what happened and as the chips fall, they fall.”
Area resident Tracy Lucas hit out at Kane and accused MPD of taking a soft approach to what she said was vigilante violence against a young black man. She compared the shooting to the 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, an event that led to the creation of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I don’t see why you’re defending his name,” Lucas said. “Knowing who the killer is does not compromise this investigation.”
A group of community activists have launched a new movement aimed at reducing the violence DC News4’s Mauricio Casillas reports.
At one point, the crowd erupted into loud chants protesting the absence of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, shouting, “Where’s the mayor?”
Earlier in the day, MPD Chief Robert Conti pleaded for patience and warned against misinformation and hysteria.
“There is too much misinformation going around this incident,” Conti said. “Too many people have made assumptions about this case and it’s unfair to the grieving family.”
The controversy comes at a sensitive time for Bowser, who is considered by Black Lives Matter and other activist groups to be a staunch defender of police. Last week, Bowser, who just began a third term in office, vetoed a sweeping overhaul of the city’s criminal code that would have, among other things, reduced maximum penalties for crimes such as burglary, carjacking and robbery.
Speaking against the bill, Bowser said, “Anytime there’s a policy that reduces penalties, I think it sends the wrong message.”
The D.C. Council, which unanimously approved the review, appears likely to overturn her decision.
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