D.C. officials and members of the faith community respond to the high number of fatal shootings in the District. (Photo courtesy of the Associated Press J. Scott Applewhite)

By Ashleigh Fields,
AFRO Assistant Editor,

Pain is piercing through the hearts of residents in Southeast D.C. as they reckon with losing five lives to fatal shootings on Aug. 5 and 6. Tymea Cook, 27, Jamal Morgan, 30, Reginald Gilbert, 34, James Morgan, 34 and Vincent Martin, 42 were all pronounced dead by Monday morning as a result of life threatening injuries caused by gun violence. The Metropolitan Police Department has recorded 161 deaths to date.

“Let me be clear, this gun violence has to stop. It is incredibly frustrating. We know that someone in the community knows what’s happening,” said Metropolitan Police Chief Pamela Smith in a live update at the 1600 block of Good Hope Road in Southeast D.C. on the night of Aug. 5. “Please reach out and provide us with any information that you can in order to ensure that our citizens and our residents are safe in our community.”

Shootings this past weekend occurred in all but one ward. Officers responded to injuries from bullet wounds at the 2500 block of Ontario Road NW, Wilmington Place and First Street SE, Just Street NE and Georgia Avenue NW in addition to other locations. As shots rang out across the District, Smith lived up to her promise of being on the scene, providing information in a timely fashion and leading the police department in community relations. 

However, as she pleaded with citizens through the screen, her message was clear: the community must communicate. 

“It can’t rest upon the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) to determine what works and what does not work, we need the community to be involved. If you saw something we need you to say something,” said Smith. “This kind of gun violence is not acceptable in the District of Columbia. This is not a war zone. We want our residents to feel safe. Our officers are where they need to be.”

Local leaders agreed with her, committing to creating their own efforts and initiatives to help resolve violence in neighborhoods. Councilmember Trayon White (D-D.C.-Ward 8) decided to host a presser and shooting response on Aug. 8 in the area he was elected to represent, Southeast D.C.

“Elected officials cannot solve this alone. This effort requires the input and cooperation of parents, students, churches, businesses, civic associations, and even those responsible for the violence,” White shared in a press release. “We all must do this together.”

His motto, “#DoSomething” has been a motivating factor for efforts within the community south of the Anacostia River. Although the Council recently passed emergency legislation in regards to violent crime and leaders have partnered with numerous organizations to promote safety, White proposed that it might be time for a separate entity to step in.

“The crime is out of control and getting worse by the day. We must declare an emergency regarding the crime and violence in our neighborhoods and act urgently,” White commented. “It may be time to call on the National Guard to protect the children and innocent people that are losing their lives to this senselessness.”

At the Aug. 8 shooting response event hosted by White, faith leaders were also called upon to weigh in on the matter at hand. 

“We are asking you, Father, God, that all the resources be spent the right way. That we make some changes and direct how we do what we do, Father, God,” said Ward 8 resident and Rev. Rowena Joyce Scott as she opened in prayer. “We are going to come together and we are going to work together—. That’s the only way we are going to accomplish the mission. That we come to you, through you, to heal any risk at odds.”

As the event concluded, many in attendance agreed to return with hope of more community conversations at the “Stop the Violence Youth Summit” on Aug. 13 at 1901 Mississippi Ave SE. Until then, MPD and the D.C. Council are pressed for time as a 28 percent increase in homicides sets the city on track for a year of murder statistics last seen in 2003 when 248 people were killed.