In wake of DC hotel shooting, community looks for answers on crime

A shooting at the Days Inn in Northwest D.C. that left one woman dead and four others wounded Thursday has residents in the neighborhood on edge about crime in the area.

Dozens of residents from the Van Ness area in Ward 3 gathered outside the hotel to hear from city leaders about the shooting and how to prevent further crime.

Michael Kurtcig has lived in the Van Ness area for 15 years. He told WTOP the area has been declining since the pandemic began.

“We’re all very concerned with what’s going on here,” Kurtcig said. “I walk my dog every morning. I smell the marijuana. I see the dirt and the crap that’s all over the place, and all of this is a concern. I know about the crime. A friend of mine who lives another block up said, ‘Be real careful when you walk at night’ — that’s a terrible thing to have to say.” 

Another resident who declined to give her name said the city might see people leave due to the violent uptick in crime.

“People’s level of comfort living in the District is diminishing,” she said. “People will leave — talented people, people who can help people who are in some jeopardy in terms of the life chances that have been dealt to them.” 

The early Thursday morning shooting at the hotel on Connecticut Avenue is still under investigation, but Police Chief Robert Contee told the crowd and reporters that it appears the shooting had “some domestic overtones” and that the people involved all knew each other.

He said the people involved the shooting at the Days Inn by Wyndham are cooperating with investigators, and detectives hope to close the case quickly.

In addition to the woman who died, four others — two men and two women — were shot. They are sustained non-life threatening injuries.

He said detectives are still working to identify the woman who was killed and notify her next of kin.

Second District Commander Duncan Bedlion said it was the first homicide in his district this year. There were four last year.

“There was a party at this hotel at one of the hotel rooms and then individuals arrived. And what looks like took place was an exchange of gunfire,” said Bedlion.

The shooting is just the latest in a violent crime surge throughout the district over the past two years. There were 198 homicides in 2020, and 2021 surpassed that with 226 killings — the highest since 2003.

“The fact of the matter is that our crime rate has gone up,” said Ward 3 Council member Mary Cheh during the community meeting.

While homicides are up, so are other violent crimes, including assaults and carjackings, and the Van Ness area has been particularly hard hit. According to D.C. Crime Cards, the area has seen an increase of over 30% in the past two years, compared to the previous two years.

“I believe it has a lot to do with the fact that there’s irresponsible and mismanaged behavior by the Department of Human Services. They are putting people in buildings over here who are addicted drugs and alcohol and who are mentally ill,” Cheh told the crowd.

“They’re doing them a disservice and they’re doing us a disservice. They’re not getting the services they need and we are the victims, if you will, of people who are acting out because they are troubled and they need help,” Cheh said. “I’m not saying that that accounts for all of it, but I am saying that it accounts for some of it, and they have to stop it.”

Mayor Muriel Bowser disputed that portrayal.

“I already addressed about making sure if the city is involved in placements of individuals who are getting human services to ensure that they have what they need,” Bowser said. “But I don’t want to conflate this incident with that, because that’s not the case. What we know so far is that we’ve had patrons here … put in place by the city that were involved in a crime and victimized.”  

Council member Cheh’s car was even stolen in the area in late 2020.

She also told the crowd that D.C. police have agreed to authorize a beat officer to walk up and down Connecticut Avenue in the area.

“While we are experiencing in places all around the city, some increase in gun crime. We are also matching that with the resources that we need,” said Mayor Muriel Bowser.

Luke Lukert

Since joining WTOP Luke Lukert has held just about every job in the newsroom from producer to web writer and now he works as a full-time reporter. He is an avid fan of UGA football. Go Dawgs!

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