One dead in chaotic U Street shooting (photos)

Updated with the number of passengers in car, number of victims involved remaining unclear late Tuesday night. Removes Groomes' account of the number of car passengers because of conflicting reports. Also updated to include news that police had taken a suspect into custody and a 8:30 a.m. presser updating on the latest in the case.


Jamal Coates (Photo courtesy: Bryan Weaver)

A 21-year-old man was taken into custody late Tuesday night in connection with the Tuesday shooting on busy U Street NW that left one person dead, according to The Washington Post. No word on whether anyone has been charged.

Shots rang out about 15 minutes after noon near the intersection of 13th and U streets at the beginning of a funeral procession for 21-year-old Ashley McRae, a young Columbia Heights woman who was killed earlier this month. The gunfire was followed by a car crash at the intersection of 11th and U.

One or more suspects fired on the car as it was joining the funeral procession, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said. The vehicle sped away then collided with a car coming from a side street. It overturned, striking multiple vehicles, including a Verizon van, witnesses said.

In the hours after the incident, police continued to search for one or more suspects. Police late this afternoon said they were searching for a light-colored, older model Crown Victoria as part of their investigation and encouraged anyone who sees one to alert them.

The shooting was initially reported as a drive-by, but Lanier said the shots were fired from the street. Police said it could be gang-related.

Citing the man's relatives, the Associated Press identified the victim who was killed as 21-year-old Jamal Coates. His cousin, Laura Coates, said he had attended McRae's funeral.

It was unclear if Coates died as a result of the car crash or from a gun shot. Another shooting victim was taken to a hospital in critical condition, and another had injuries that weren’t life threatening, police said in the hours after the shooting.

As the night progressed, though, it became unclear exactly how many passengers were in the vehicle and how many people suffered injuries, with various media outlets reporting different figures.

Late Tuesday night, the Washington Post was reporting that one person was killed and one injured. However, police told AP that one person was critically hurt and a second person was also grazed with a bullet.

Some streets in the area were shut down and the U Street Metro station entrance on 13th Street was also temporarily closed.

Hundreds of mourners had attended the funeral services for McRae at Walker Memorial Baptist Church, 2020 13th St. NW, a church trustee told ABC 7. Five uniformed police officers also attended the services, Ward 1 D.C. Councilmember Jim Graham said.

The victims were outside the church, not inside for the service, said police assistant chief Diane Groomes. She said investigators don't believe the shooting was an act of retaliation for McRae's death.

Graham said gang members from Columbia Heights and Adams Morgan were exchanging words during the funeral services and the taunting escalated to violence outside.

A Southeast D.C. man has been arrested in connection to McRae’s death, according to the Washington Post report.

D.C. mayor Adrian Fenty will give an update on the shooting at an 8:30 a.m. presser Wednesday at 11th and U streets, NW.

Former Ward 1 D.C. Council candidate Bryan Weaver, who was eating lunch at Ulah Bistro in the 1200 block of U Street when the incident occurred, said he heard between eight to 10 shots. He saw rescue crews attempt to pull at least one victim — believed now to be Coates — from the overturned car.

Coates, who Weaver said was a member of the 1-7 gang in his Adams Morgan neighborhood, said the 21-year-old's loss was hard to swallow. Weaver knew Coates through the nonprofit he runs, Hoops Sagrado, which focuses on youth leadership development.

"This is a tough one," Weaver said. "He went to a funeral. He just went to a funeral. You're going to be remembered as just another victim of D.C. crew violence. For him, it's more of complicated story than that."

Weaver's organization takes at-risk D.C. area youth on cultural exchange programs to Guatemala, where they learn Spanish and teach indigenous Mayan kids how to play basketball. Coates attended the eight-week program two summers ago.

Coates, police sources told TBD, had an extensive rap sheet that included involvement in shootings and robberies, but Weaver said the Guatemala trip changed him. He later completed a GED program and recently volunteered for Weaver's campaign. "He really just wanted to settle down and find a job," Weaver said.

"Jamal figured out ... this is a completely different life. He started looking for ways to change. He made some huge efforts."

The car that Coates was in was parked at the intersection before it sped away from the site of the shooting and overturned, a woman who works in the area said.

"When I looked out, there were people running from the car. It took the guys a minute in the car ... they were sitting there for a good 10 or 15 seconds before they actually put the car in gear," she told TBD.

The woman, whose office window overlooks the scene, said she saw "people running everywhere," including at least three or four individuals running in the opposite direction of the vehicle.

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