Link to burned car, remorseful text messages cited in case against man charged in 6-year-old’s DC shooting death

The Maryland man suspected of opening fire on a D.C. street corner earlier this month, killing 6-year-old Nyiah Courtney, will be held without bond in D.C., as new court documents reveal the evidence linking him to the shooting, including apparent expressions of remorse he made in a group text hours after the girl was shot.

Courtney was killed in a spray of bullets late July 16 as she rode her scooter in front of a carryout in Southeast D.C. Five other people, including her mother, were wounded. Marktwan Hargraves, 22, has been charged with second-degree murder while armed in the girl’s killing.

Key evidence was found in and around a gray 2006 Saturn Ion, that was seen on surveillance video at the time of the shooting and was found set on fire in Northeast D.C. just hours after D.C. police released photos of the car and pleaded with the public’s help in finding it. In the back seat of the burning car, police found a single cartridge casing that ballistics experts said matched casings found at the scene of the shooting.

Near the blaze, investigators also found a red lighter, matches, a gas can — and Maryland temporary tags that traced back to an ex-girlfriend of Hargraves, who said she had lent him the car several weeks before and that he had refused to return it.

Judge Judith Pipe ordered Hargraves held in jail before his next court appearance. She pointed to Hargraves’ connection to the car as well as text messages he sent in the hours after the shooting as evidence of probable cause to charge him with second-degree murder. His lawyers had argued there wasn’t enough evidence placing him at the scene of the shooting.

In one of the messages sent around 9:30 a.m. the morning after the shooting, according to the documents, Hargraves texted: “Got talk to ya it’s serious it’s crushing me brush I cried last night.”

When the recipients of the messages asked what was going on, he directed them to an Instagram account that posted about the girl’s killing.

“I’m hurt,” he said in another message, according to the documents.

The judge said the messages were “persuasive” in linking Hargraves to the killing and said they showed him expressing concern, sympathy and responsibility for the crime.

Other messages — including one sent less than two hours after the shooting — appear to show Hargraves making attempts to sell a Draco rifle, which fires the same caliber of bullet as the kind used in the shooting.

Hargraves’ arrest was announced by D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee at a high-profile news conference Wednesday and comes as the city grapples with an uptick in gun violence.

As a backdrop to the shooting that killed Courtney, the court documents describe feuding neighborhood crews, including one that operated near Martin Luther King Jr Avenue near where the shooting took place and another in the nearby neighborhood of Congress Park.

“Recent violence between these two crews has resulted in several shootings and homicides,” authorities wrote in the affidavit. In fact, the documents reveal a group of men around the block from where Courtney was fatally shot returned fire when the original gunfire broke out, leaving a trail of 17 9mm cartridge casings.

Hargraves, who was already facing serious weapons charges in Prince George’s County, Maryland, at the time of the shooting that killed Courtney will next be in court in D.C. on Aug. 18.

WTOP’s Megan Cloherty contributed to this report.

Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined WTOP.com as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at Nextgov.com, part of Government Executive Media Group.

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