Mean Streets

A Spike in Murders?  Hold a News Conference

Three years ago this past weekend marked the anniversary of the announcement of the “crime emergency” in the District of Columbia.  On July 11, 2006, twenty days before the murder of Robert Wone, then DC Police Chief Charles Ramsey declared a “crime emergency,” after a recent surge in homicides in the District.  

The defense may use this “crime emergency” to help support the “intruder theory.”  Their argument will be that in the midst of an outbreak of crime and murders in DC, it is very plausable that an “intruder” would break into 1509 Swann Street and murder one of the occupants.

Let’s look exactly at what was going on at the time, and if the Swann Street murder was in line with the type of crimes that caused this emergency to be declared.

Then Police Chief Charles Ramsey Announcing DC "Crime Emergency."

Then Police Chief Charles Ramsey Announcing DC "Crime Emergency."

This was the fourth “crime emergency” that Ramsey declared since becoming Police Chief in 1998, which evens out to about one every two years.  There were 13 homicides in the District between July 1 and the date Ramsey declared the emergency.  

Even with the spike though, Metropolitan Police Department records show that violent crime was down nearly 6 percent over the same period the year before. More directly, the number of homicides was exactly equal to one year before — 94.  But the number of robberies had increased by 14 percent.  Ramsey was concerned that robberies could easily turn into homicides. 

There was speculation that the reason for the “crime emergency” was an election year in the district, and there was a very heated 5 way primary race for Mayor to succeed retiring Mayor Anthony Williams.  

Of the 13 murders in July that precipitated the emergency, all them were committed with a gun, except for one, which was a rape attack on a group in Georgetown, with one member of the group, a British tourist who subsequently died of knife wounds.  The assailants were apprehended with a day of the crime.

 The murder of Robert Wone on August 2, 2006 upon initial examination stands apart from the type of murders that were occurring in the area at that time.  First, it was a murder with a knife, while the overwhelming majority of the other murders were committed by a gun.  Second, many of the murders began as robberies, which maybe one of the reasons why the police in the affidavit of arrest for Dylan Ward focused on the fact that there was no forced entry to the property, and that no robbery was committed, especially in a house with many valuables possessions as targets.  

Finally, the murder that occurred with a knife was in the open, not in a well-protected property, with several people in a group being randomly attacked, not one individual.

This is what probably lead Sgt. Brett Parson, liaison to the gay and lesbian community, to comment early in the case, “The evidence we have found so far would lead us to believe Mr. Wone was not the victim of some happenstance. This attack was specific towards him.”  If the attack was a target, then the intruder knew several things in advance.  

First, the intruder knew the house.  He or she was able to move very quietly and judiciously right to their target without any of the occupants of the house hearing. Second, the intruder knew that Robert Wone was staying at the house on the night of August 2, 2006.  Maybe the intruder had a tip that Robert was staying there, which means that all the communications, electronic and otherwise, about Robert’s decision to stay at the house prior to that night are crucial to this case.

Third, if the intruder was just looking to  murder someone, the easiest target would have been Dylan Ward because his room was on the second floor right off the stairs. Clearly the intruder passed Dylan Ward’s room and headed to the guest room. Fourth, because Robert was Chinese and the other three occupants of the house are white, the chance the intruder made a mistake is extremely minimal.  

Maybe Robert encountered the intruder first, and the intruder was looking for someone else, Robert fell victim, and the intruder became afraid and fled.  This scenario seems highly unlikely because the lack of defensive wounds founds on Robert’s body do not support this theory.

What seems apparent is that Robert’s murder was an extreme outlier of the type causing the “crime emergency.”  The intruder theory would hold greater weight if Robert had been found shot, the house was in greater disarray, and valuable possessions had been stolen.  

What was typical was the District’s feeble attempt to combat crime and solve murders.  While early numbers show that DC murders are down by 20% this year, although it appears there are nearly 35 still unsolved at 2009’s midway point.  It sounds like it’s time for another news conference.

— Posted by David

18 comments for “Mean Streets

  1. Clio
    07/13/2009 at 10:14 PM

    Editors, the following are two sets of historical questions from Virginia, south of Fredericksburg:

    When did this fourth “crime emergency” under Chief Ramsey end? Did it end with his tenure in office? Have any other “crime emergencies” been called since he left office?

    Was/is Swann Street a beacon for home invaders? Was/is it a gentrified oasis in a desert of urban blight, or was/is it actually safer in which to live than Aunt Marcia’s McLean Hamlet (at least right now)? Have any other home invasions been reported on that particular block in the past two decades? My guess: no!

    • CDinDC
      07/13/2009 at 10:51 PM

      I ran a search on the Metropolitan Police Department website of crime statistics 500 feet from 1509 Swann Street for the periods 7/12/2007 to 7/12/2008 and 07/12/2008 to 07/12/2009. Unfortunately, it only allows a search of the previous 2 years.

      In any event, for the period 7/12/2007 to 7/12/2008, there were 11 burglaries within a 500 foot radius of 1509 Swann. 500 feet can be as far away as two blocks in any direction. The number dropped to 6 during the period 7/12/2008 to 7/12/2009. A 46% drop.

      None of the 6 burglaries for the past year were directly on Swann Street. (Data unavailable for previous year.)


      • Perplexed
        07/14/2009 at 4:03 PM

        Great info!

  2. Nora
    07/14/2009 at 7:48 AM

    Good preemptive thinking, David. Real or imagined crime waves have been used as “alibis” in DC in the recent past. I’m thinking of remarks Gary Condit made long before any evidence existed that Chandra Levy had been murdered and while her family was still holding out hope. He attributed her disappearance to a Dupont Circle “serial killer” who had supposedly slain Joyce Chiang and Christine Mirzayan years earlier. Bizarre and cold – why would you say this about a “good friend”?

    Condit was speaking to his San Joaquin constituency, who were unversed on life in DC. Hopefully the trouple’s jury will be ready for this kind of red herring?

    • Cassius
      07/15/2009 at 11:00 PM

      Nora – DC people are all too familiar with the patterns of crime in this city. It’s a necessity. Anyone who’s lived here for five minutes knows this murder didn’t fit any known mold. If that’s the best the Dream Team can come up with, the trio are wasting their $.

      I do however agree with you that Gary Condit was the 4th Horseman. It’s so obvious! I’ve already deputized a posse to track him down to his Modesto ice cream parlor from whence he pulls the strings. You want chocolate sprinkles on that, Gary boy? Just ask Mr. Ward.

      • Nora
        07/16/2009 at 7:30 AM

        Aw shuckins Cassius, no need to flatter! Just throw me an ample portion of the Condit bounty & we’ll call it even steven.

        No chocolate sprinkles please.

  3. TK
    07/14/2009 at 8:37 AM

    A question, somewhat off-topic. Judge Weisberg is currently handling the case of that crazy woman who killed her four daughters. At present he hasn’t approved the defense motion for a delay, but if he does, could this affect the timing of the Wone case?

    • Craig
      07/14/2009 at 9:15 AM

      TK – I think you mean Banita Jacks. She goes before Weisberg in a bench trial as early as Monday.

      A flurry of coverage popped up in the past few days. It should not impact the Wone case sked at all I don’t think.

      • TK
        07/14/2009 at 9:17 AM

        Thanks Craig, yes that’s her. I missed her name but when I heard Weisberg I perked up. Supposedly he’s reviewing tape of her initial interview today; it could be thrown out.

  4. Perplexed
    07/14/2009 at 4:06 PM

    Also, my limited info. would assume that a psychological profile would label this as a crime personal in nature……..

  5. Themis
    07/14/2009 at 8:07 PM

    Robert’s murder is inconsistent with a common burglary. Nothing was taken. Not even the purported murder weapon. Moreover, most burglars strike when no one is home.

    And don’t forget about the possibility that Robert was sexually assaulted, something the defense will surely contest. Most likely by trying to show the evidence of semen in the rectum was not collected properly.

    How no one in the house could hear a sexual assault is beyond me. Moreover, if there was a sexual assault in the bed where Robert was found, you would think that there would be some rumpled sheets at a bare minimum.

    • CDinDC
      07/14/2009 at 8:22 PM

      Absolutely, Themis.

      Not to mention, violent crime usually causes “shedding”……body hair and/or clothing fibers from the assailant can be found on the body of the victim. Nothing of that sort was found on Robert’s body (that we know of). This could indicate that Robert’s body was cleaned and the clothing he was wearing was not on his body at the time of the stabbing.

      • Clio
        07/14/2009 at 9:13 PM

        Thank you, Themis and CDinDC.

        Forgive my ignorance of criminology, but do the weapons used also tend to rule out a random burglary/home invasion gone bad? A knife apparently from the house itself and needles and syringes for the drugs — all of which are still “missing” — would be far less efficient for a homicidal stranger to deploy than a garden-variety gun, which was overwhelmingly the weapon of choice during the “crime wave” of the summer of 2006.

        • Themis
          07/14/2009 at 9:20 PM

          Guns make noise, so a burglar with half a brain would not fire one in a rowhouse. On the cases I worked where a murder followed a burglary, the victim was usually stabbed, beaten, strangled, or smothered unless the house or business was in a remote area. A .22 isn’t that loud, but I still think it would be risky to fire one in that particular housing set up and neighborhood.

          • CDinDC
            07/14/2009 at 9:25 PM

            Considering you could hear a scream through the walls….

          • Clio
            07/14/2009 at 9:27 PM

            Thank you, Themis. I would make a very bad thief!

      • Perplexed
        07/15/2009 at 3:44 PM

        Remember they found wipe marks on RW’s body…..definitely cleaned…..

  6. Robert
    08/03/2009 at 5:52 AM

    Not “COULD INDICATE that the Robert’s body
    was cleaned and the clothing he was wearing was
    not on his body at the time of the stabbing.” It
    was established by forensics that there were no
    fibers from Wone’s shirt on the knife presented as
    the murder weapon or that knife presented was
    consistent with the holes present on shirt!

    I think you will agree that if there was intruder
    and he was a professional assassin — like a PRC
    operative who targeted Wone — that executioner
    would have come armed with something like a
    gun with a silencer unless agent wanted to make
    “hit” look so botched that nobody would believe it
    was professional hit on General Counsel of RFA.

    As you must know, knife is usually a weapon of
    choice wielded in crime of passion. But knife in a
    passion killing is not something which a stranger
    would happen upon in kitchen of foreign abode.

    Now it is possible that a burglar would pick up a
    knife upon the awakening of the target of theft,
    but not knife taken from a culinary set in room
    next to that in which killing is to take place.

    I mean how would burglar know the location of
    weapon in room which was not the subject of the
    burglary? Oh, I know! Ward gave him valuable
    info for purpose of saving Wone from harm.

    If the intruder entered Ward’s room for purpose of
    obtaining weapon, why did not Ward awaken and
    intruder kill him for being a potential witness to
    crime? Oh, I know! That would make sense.

    And why did assassin not kill all residents of the
    house to insure there were no witnesses at all.
    That is what a professional hit man does.

    But whether intruder explanation or assassin
    hypothesis, why the need to kill target who is
    drugged out with Gmbh and ketamine?

    Real people that intruder or assassin should have
    killed were the residents who were lucid enough
    to identify the burglar who did not take anything.

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