Violent crime in Southeast D.C. is rising and another recent homicide adds to the area’s death toll. This time a man was fatally injured inside a church.
The Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church turned into a crime scene on Oct.26 after James Albert Harling Jr. was fatally beaten.
A family photo of James Albert Harling Jr. (Courtesy Photo)
According to police reports, Harling, 49, was injured from trauma to the head after an argument in the dining area of the MBI Health Services center, located within the church. MBI serves more than 4,000 District residents with counseling and treatment for those struggling with drug and alcohol abuse, mental health problems, and unemployment.
When authorities arrived at the scene, they found Harling unconscious and transported him to a Maryland hospital where he died. Police arrested Perez Green, 37, a Southeast resident, on Oct. 26 for his alleged involvement in the homicide.
“The incident which occurred recently at the Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church was an unfortunate, tragic, and isolated one,” Tony Crews, senior vice president of MBI Health Services, LLC told the AFRO in a statement on Nov. 7.
“We want to assure the community, and our neighbors, that the church staff and community were at no time in danger.”
Harling and Perez were both clients of MBI.
Crews said guns and knives were not involved, because the facility’s security policy prohibits weapons inside the church or any other MBI facilities. “MBI has always maintained a safe and wholesome family environment, and will continue to do so,” he said.
According to an arrest affidavit obtained by the Washington Post, officials said Green struck Harling over the head twice with a metal folding chair after Harling joked, during breakfast at the health center, that Green’s haircut made him look like a young boy. The two men teased one another every day, but Perez told police he was tired of being picked on.
“I’m not playing with them people no more,” Green recently said in the affidavit
He is charged with second-degree murder while armed and was scheduled to appear in court on Nov. 8, according to D.C. Courts.
Harling was unmarried and did not have children.
“He was the baby brother,” Renee Johnston, Laurel, Md., told the Post. “We teased him a lot. He was fun. He was kind. He was helpful. He was kind of quiet, but if you talked to him, he talked to you.”