Months after DPW shooting, city's workers remain uneasy
This article originally said the Department of Public Works lot in question was located in Northwest D.C. It is in Northeast.
Had it not been for a meeting, Donnell Pringle likely would have been there. He would have seen the chaos, heard the gunfire, watched the men falling that October morning in the Department of Public Works lot in D.C.
Pringle, a DPW employee, instead arrived at the scene just after the shooting, when police officers were swarming the site. Distraught workers stood clustered together, and would be held on the lot for questioning hours after the fatal shooting of their co-worker, 51-year-old Larry Hutchins. Months later, his killer has not been caught.
"We just need someone to help us,” says DPW Director William O. Howland. “We really do need someone to help us.”
Now that they have said goodbye to Hutchins, Howland and the employees under his watch are still unsettled by the idea that his killer could be a familiar face. At the time, the gunman was believed to be wearing a uniform, which some suspected matched their own.
"I go because I have to go to work, but I don't think I'll ever probably be comfortable, because no one has been apprehended,” says Pringle. “The question becomes: Could it be someone who still works among us?"
The idea didn’t come from Pringle.
"The person responsible for the shooting was wearing a uniform, we have not confirmed what type of uniform," Police Chief Cathy Lanier reportedly said after the shooting. An MPD spokeswoman also told the Washington Post that the gunman was wearing "some sort of a uniform.”
For his job, Hutchins dressed in the familiar dark clothes that defines many D.C. government workers. After Hutchins’ death, Pringle said, there was talk among DPW employees about changing the color of their uniforms, the better to spot an intruder on the lot, even if that outsider was also a city employee from a non-DPW agency.
“Even if they don't work with me, what would bring someone to come to the facility to shoot someone?” Pringle said. “Our job is to provide a public service. We're in a vulnerable position because we're actually the front-line workers. If you have someone that's still upset or disgruntled, who are they going to attack next?"
Pringle won’t find any answers in the bare-bones police report, which explains the tragedy in a few sentences.
“At the list time and location MPD revived a radio run for a shooting at 1214 W Street NE. Once MPD arrived on the scene, C-1 AND C-2, were found unconscious, suffering from multiple gunshot wounds,” the narrative reads. “C1 and C1 were transported to Washington Hospital Center Medstar. C-1 was pronounced dead at 0658 hours by Dr. Anthony Shiftlett.”
Missing from the narrative? It was still dark when the shooter entered the lot at 1214 W St. NE on Oct. 13. He fired multiple rounds. Sanitation workers were standing outside, getting ready to start their routes. The assailant fled after Hutchins and another employee were hit.
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