WASHINGTON (AP) — A 6-year-old girl was killed and five other people were wounded when a gunman opened fire night in a Washington, D.C., neighborhood, just feet from where police officers were stationed.
The gunfire erupted shortly after 11 p.m. on in the Congress Heights section of southeast Washington.
Police officers who were nearby responded to the scene about 34 seconds after the first gunshot was heard and rushed the girl to a local hospital in a police car, where she was pronounced dead, Metropolitan Police Department Chief Robert Contee said.
Police identified the girl as Nyiah Courtney. Three men and two women suffered nonlife-threatening gunshot wounds.
“We will do whatever it takes to close this case in a swift and professional manner,” Contee said at a news conference.
Officials believe the gunshots — in what Contee called a “brazen” shooting — came from a passing vehicle. Police were expected to release video of the vehicle and were offering a reward of up to $60,000 for information that leads to an arrest in the case.
“She was starting the first grade this fall and now that won’t happen and frankly that is unacceptable to me and it should be to every resident,” Contee said of the child.
Community members confronted Mayor Muriel Bowser and other city officials at the news conference, demanding they take immediate action against nearby liquor stores they claim are attracting violence in the area. They described several other recent shootings in the same area.
Bowser and Contee said the community also needs to help police try to drive down violence in the neighborhood.
“The cowards who committed this crime came into this community, without any regard for human life, without regard for Nyiah’s life and opened fire,” Contee said. “That cannot and will not be tolerated. It is time for us to say enough is enough.”
Washington, like many other large cities in the U.S., is seeing a spike in violent crime and homicides. Homicides in the district are rising for the fourth consecutive year, with over 100 killings already reported in 2021.
While it is typical to see a surge of crime in the summer months, the nationwide spike in crime this year defies easy explanation. Experts point to a number of potential causes: the pandemic that has killed more than 600,000 people in the U.S., worries about the economy, large gatherings after months of stay-at-home orders, intense stress and even the hot weather.