Outrage is simmering over the fatal shooting of a 13-year-old Black middle school student in Washington, D.C., by a man who suspected the teen was breaking into cars in his neighborhood.
Metropolitan Police identified the victim as Karon Blake of Northeast Washington.
Police responded to the 1000 block of Quincy Street Northeast just before 4 a.m. Saturday on a report of a shooting and found Karon with apparent gunshot wounds. He was taken to a hospital and died after lifesaving attempts, officials said.
Detectives determined that a man inside a residence at the scene said he had “heard noises and observed someone that appeared to be tampering with vehicles.”
He went outside with a registered firearm to investigate and had an “interaction” with Karon.
“During the interaction, the male resident discharged his firearm striking the victim,” police said.
The man who opened fire has not been identified or arrested.
He is an adult male, he is Black, and he has retained legal counsel, Police Chief Robert J. Contee III said Tuesday.
Detectives are gathering all the facts and will present the case to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for possible charges, he said.
“A grand jury will determine if a crime occurred based on facts — and not mere speculation,” Contee said.
Authorities said “two juvenile males” were seen running from the scene and at least two cars were damaged on the block of the shooting, NBC Washington reported. Police later said they found a stolen car, which they believe Karon had used, near the scene.
Neighbors said they heard four to five gunshots during the incident, the news station reported.
Contee was sharply critical of what he said was misinformation and speculation about the case, which he called tragic. There are social media images showing people who have no connection to the case, he said.
“People are making assumptions and searching for people that are not involved. People are making allegations centered around race — and that is wrong,” Contee said.
The man who shot Karon called police after the incident, Contee said. When officers arrived he was performing CPR and gave officers and account of what happened, Contee said.
Karon was a ‘quiet and inquisitive scholar’
Karon was a student at Brookland Middle School.
The school’s principal, Kerry Richardson, said in a note, obtained by NBC Washington, that Karon was a “quiet and inquisitive scholar who loved fashion and football.”
“Although he loved his neighborhood, he loved Brookland MS (the faculty & his peers) and the structure it presented to him even more,” Richardson wrote in the note to the school’s staff.
He leaves behind his mom and three younger siblings, according to the principal.
In a letter to the families of the Brookland Middle School community, Richardson wrote: “With great sadness, I share that a Brookland student tragically lost their life to gun violence in the early morning of January 7. Let us join in sending love and support to their family as they grieve this devastating loss. As a member of the Brookland family, we know our student will be missed by all who know them.”
The school is offering mental health resources and counseling to support students and staff.
‘Property is not greater than life’
In the days after the shooting, pressure has mounted for answers, with local lawmakers condemning the shooting and demanding that the name of the person who opened fired be made public.
D.C. Council member Christina Henderson tweeted Monday: “Property is not greater than life. Karon should be alive today.”
Ward 5 Council member Zachary Parker said in a statement Monday: “He was a son, brother, friend and student who should still be here. I am deeply saddened and outraged by Karon’s killing.”
“No car or material possession is worth a life — under any circumstances. I join Ward 5 residents in calling on the Metropolitan Police Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to hold accountable the individual who took Karon’s life,” he continued.
A community meeting is scheduled to take place Tuesday evening to hear residents’ concerns and questions surrounding the case.
Community groups DC Safety Squad, Ward 5 Mutual Aid and Harriet’s Wildest Dreams are demanding the release of the shooter’s name and any visual evidence.
In a statement, DC Safety squad said: “Karon Blake was senselessly murdered. He was loved by his family, friends and community. We are calling on Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Lindsey Appiah to immediately have the name of Karon’s killer and any photo or video evidence collected released.”
In a statement, Appiah said: “As a government, we are committed to being as open and transparent as possible in all matters while also ensuring that we act in a manner that advances the fair and equitable administration of justice.”
She said the investigation is still underway, in consultation with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Mayor Muriel Bowser said Monday she was “incredibly saddened.”
“We would rather be talking about a 13-year-old going to school today than to talk about him being killed on one of our streets,” she said.
“If you feel that there is a public safety issue in or around your home, call 911. That is the appropriate thing to do, to call 911,” she added.
In the first week of the new year, six people were killed in D.C., including Karon, according to the Metropolitan Police Department’s crime dashboard.