It was a deadly weekend in Prince George’s County, Maryland, after a spate of shootings left six people dead, and four others wounded, and the police chief weighed in on what it would take to drive crime down.
Chief Malik Aziz said the killings follow a rise in crime seen not only locally but across the nation.
“I’m confident that we’re going to find those involved in these homicides, and we’re going to bring them to justice,” Aziz said.
Three people were wounded in the first shooting that occurred just before midnight on Friday, when gunfire erupted near a gathering in the area of Village Green Drive in Landover.
“At some point during the gathering, a vehicle drove through, firing shots from the vehicle and struck our three victims,” said Maj. Todd Lightner, with Prince George’s County police.
Hannah Woods, 65, of Seat Pleasant, and Nijah Johnson, 24, of Upper Marlboro, were killed. A third victim, also a woman, was taken to the hospital but is expected to survive. Lightner said it is unclear if the women were targeted in the shooting.
Police are still looking for those responsible.
Also, just before midnight, not far away in Hyattsville, police responded to the 1800 block of Ryderwood Court for a shooting. At the scene, first responders found 17-year-old Kyree Duvall, of Hillcrest Heights, dead. Then about an hour later, Lightner said a woman who was also wounded in that shooting drove herself to the hospital where she later died. She was identified as 20-year-old Camisha Jenifer, of Hillcrest Heights.
“We believed they were involved in a transaction, where one was selling a gun to the other, at some point during that transaction, it became violent and we believe they shot each other,” Lightner said.
Then in Lewisdale Saturday morning, police responded to the 6700 block of 22nd Place, where they found a van that had crashed. Inside the vehicle, driver Angel Olivares, 44, of Capitol Heights, was found shot more than once. He died on the scene. Two other women were also shot while inside the van, according to police, both had nonlife threatening injuries.
“Detectives are working in this case to establish suspects and a motive,” Lightner said.
The final deadly shooting of the weekend was Sunday around 8 p.m. in Temple Hills, during which a teenager was killed. Micah Briscoe, 16, of Temple Hills, was found shot outside on Northam Road; he was pronounced dead on the scene. Another person was also found shot, and they were taken to the hospital for treatment.
There is no word of any suspects in the Sunday night shooting.
Lightner said all the cases appear to be “isolated” and not connected to one another.
The six deaths moves the county’s homicide total up to 81 for the year — that number is up 72% over the same period last year during which the county was at 47 homicides.
In June, the county announced its summer crime initiative aimed at suppressing a spike in crime during the summer months with enrichment opportunities for youth in high-risk areas and also increased police visibility in those areas.
Aziz said officers were near the shootings when the shots were fired, but he said the department can’t predict where a crime will happen.
“We were very close, unfortunately, we were not close enough to prevent a few of these from occurring,” Aziz said.
As for the cause of the rise in crime, Aziz said that while that remains unclear, when looking over decades worth of statistics, the department has seen upticks in violence happen in cycles.
“It has escalated in the past few years,” Aziz said.
He also suspects the pandemic, socioeconomic factors and other factors play into what he called the “recipe for disaster” being seen nationwide in regards to crime.
As crime rises, Aziz said the department has reached “critical levels” when it comes to staffing since a couple of hundred positions remain unfilled in the department of 1,800 officers. That has resulted in the department resorting to using overtime to keep more officers on patrol.
He said in a given month, the department has seen 10 to 20 officers retire or resign from the department, with more reaching all requirements for retirement each day.
“Of course, we would love to have more officers; we would love to have a better climate for officers to join us, and we think nothing beats, at this point in society, nothing beats an officer out there in the community, engaging with the community,” Aziz said.
When asked how many officers he would like to see on the force, Aziz said he isn’t sure what that number is yet because having a police officer on every corner might not be the answer to curbing violent crime.
“It’s about getting the right number of personnel that it takes to drive crime down and to have a more vibrant and engaging community,” Aziz said.
He said figuring out the right number of officers for the county will take discussions with local officials and the community.
Malik said he has the support of county and community leaders to fill the vacancies.