The Wash
A detective enters the crime scene of a murder in Friendship Heights on Sept. 25 (Aaron Schaffer/The Wash)

‘Sudden’ and ‘ruthless’ murders roil Tenleytown, Friendship Heights

Residents and police officials are concerned about the deadly uptick in gun violence in Ward Three and the District.

Officials plan to unveil a “comprehensive plan” in the coming weeks to address a surge in deadly gun violence across the District, including in Ward Three.

In that area, one of the District’s most northwestern wards, two deadly shootings have been recorded in the past month, with at least one nonfatal shooting also recorded.

“The District, like other large cities across the country, has witnessed an increase in gun-related violence,” Interim Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice Roger Mitchell told The Wash in a statement. “Over the coming weeks, we look forward to presenting a comprehensive plan to meet this challenge head-on with a network of resources and services to our most vulnerable communities impacted by gun violence.”

The spate of shootings has rocked the area, and MPD 2nd District Commander Duncan Bedlion has spoken at two community meetings in recent weeks to assure Ward Three residents that MPD detectives, who Bedlion says have a 68% homicide case closure rate, are actively investigating the cases.

District police blocked off 45th Avenue NW, near a fatal shooting, on Sept. 24 (Aaron Schaffer/The Wash).

“Hopefully, we will be able to piece this together and be able to announce something soon to the public,” Bedlion said at an Oct. 15 ANC3E meeting. “What’s very disturbing about these particular crimes is they appear to be sudden, and they were ruthless.”

“There are promising leads,” Bedlion said, “but in terms of video, there is nothing that we can share with the public at this time.” An MPD spokesperson declined to comment on the specifics of the shootings or investigations, citing their ongoing nature.

According to Sarah Bever, the vice-chair of the local police district’s community advisory council, the increased deadly shootings in Ward Three have unnerved local residents.

“People do seem alarmed by the recent violent crime because that’s not usual for this neighborhood,” Bever said.

ANC3E chair Jon Bender told The Wash that the recent murders in Ward Three are “of great concern.” But, he said, “it’s a concern that goes well beyond our neighborhood. And although we need to take any reasonable steps to protect our neighborhood, in a way, we’re doing better than lots of parts of this town and lots of parts of the country.”

It’s been an especially deadly 2020 for the District and cities nationwide. There have been 141 fatal shootings across the district this year — more than last year’s final tally of 129 such shootings.

The rise in deadly shootings in the District comes amid a nationwide reckoning over racism and police brutality. In the District, lawmakers are currently deciding whether to make permanent a sweeping package of police reforms. And Mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat, has come under pressure in recent months by local activists seeking to defund MPD in the wake of George Floyd’s killing and related protests.

At the ANC3F meeting last week, Bedlion, the police commander, encouraged residents to report suspicious behavior to the police.

That didn’t sit well with James Tandaric, a local teacher.

“On a personal note, as a person of color, when he was saying how ‘if you see something suspicious, call the police’ … to me that that’s very racially loaded,” Tandaric told The Wash.

Tandaric said that the four or five people who wrote in the meeting’s Zoom chat that they agreed with him was “huge progress.”

“If this was like, a year or two ago, there might not be any” agreement over Tandaric’s statement, he admitted. “I think like when I made that comment, people were like, ‘okay, oh yeah, that’s true. I’m learning that right now.’”

Aaron Schaffer

Aaron Schaffer is a journalist who writes about the Friendship Heights and Tenleytown neighborhoods for The Wash. He has written extensively about foreign lobbying and influence in Washington.

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