Residents gathered in Southeast D.C. last week for a Peace Walk near where Nyiah Courtney, 6 , was killed and four adults hurt at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X Blvd.
D.C. police have made an arrest in the killing of 6-year-old Nyiah Courtney, who was shot to death on July 16 in Congress Heights. Chief Robert Contee III announced the arrest of 22-year-old Marktwan Hargraves, of Waldorf, Md., who has been charged with first-degree murder while armed.
"I stood before you just over a week ago and said we would get justice for 6-year-old Nyiah Courtney," Contee said at a press conference today. "The prayers of the community have been answered. I'm here to announce today that we've got our man."
Courtney's mother and four others were also shot around 11 p.m. near the intersection of Malcolm X Ave. and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. SE.
Contee said that Hargraves was "no stranger" to law enforcement, and thanked federal law agencies and community members for their assistance to "bring closure to this senseless act of violence."
Courtney's killing comes amid a spike in gun violence incidents in the city. Last year, 198 people were killed in the District, the highest number in 15 years. This year's homicide count is on track to surpass that number, with 112 killings as of July 28, a 4% increase over last year. Most of the people who were killed were Black men who lived in some of the city's highest poverty neighborhoods. Shootings in the following days at Nationals Park and on 14th Street NW drew national coverage. Earlier this year, Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White called for a state of emergency over the shooting deaths of three teenagers within a month.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser addressed the rise in shootings at Wednesday's conference with Contee.
"We recognize, of course, that gun violence is a national crisis," Bowser said. "We also know that we have a responsibility to do everything possible locally to protect our residents and prevent that violence from happening in D.C. neighborhoods. We will never accept it as normal."
Contee also announced the indictment of 16 individuals on federal narcotics conspiracy charges, who were operating in the Congress Heights neighborhood where Courtney was killed.
"What we know is when there is a violent action, we must be laser focused to interrupt the cycle of violence and those with the closest proximity to the violence," Contee said.
Contee said the indictments and arrests, which started on Monday, were the result of several months of investigation and part of a partnership with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Contee said 13 firearms were recovered as well as "various amounts" of cocaine, crack, heroin, PCP, pills, and cash. One individual remains at large, Contee said.
"We got your guns, we got your drugs, we've taken your cars, we've got your friends. Now we're coming for you," Contee said.
Courtney's father — who was also wounded, per Contee — was one of those indicted, the chief said. Asked by a reporter whether it was likely that Courtney's family was targeted, Contee said, "I think it's possible. Her father was out there in the block, it was after 11 o'clock at night, he ended up getting shot, he's part of this indictment. I think you move from the realm of possibility to the realm of probability."
Bowser added Wednesday that she plans to request an additional $11 million from the D.C. Council to hire an additional 20 officers in this fiscal year, along with another 150 in the next fiscal year. She said she had not yet identified "adjustments that will need to be made" to fund the proposal.
The D.C. Council last fall passed sweeping police reforms amid a nationwide reckoning over police violence, and actually increased MPD's budget (though not as much as Bowser initially proposed).
It's the latest instance of the mayor sparring with the council over police funding. Bowser on Wednesday touted her recent directive to the Metropolitan Police Department to use as much overtime as needed to address the uptick in violence. The council previously passed legislation asking MPD to report overtime use.
Mayor Bowser repeatedly cited data that indicates residents want more police presence in their neighborhoods, but advocates have long called for funding to go toward violence interrupters and other community peace programs. Officials told the New York Times that MPD officers were near the scene of Courtney's shooting at the time.
"The issue isn't a lack of police presence," Advisory Neighborhood Commission chair Salim Adofo told the paper. "The issue is that people don't care."
Contee said Wednesday that the arrests and indictments showed "the impact of community working together with the police department."
"It cannot be just MPD. If we come together, we can solve and successfully hold violent criminals accountable in our communities," Contee said. "I'm pleading with the community to work with us, to work together with us."
This story is from DCist.com, the local news website of WAMU.