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Mass shooting at DC party draws new attention to problem with large gatherings during pandemic

Police Chief Peter Newsham said they should have broken up the party, where 21 people were shot Saturday.

WASHINGTON — The mass shooting of 21 people at a DC party is calling into question the issue with large gatherings during the pandemic. Some neighbors want police to do more.

DC Police Chief Peter Newsham said Sunday that hundreds gathered at the 3300 block of Dubois Place, Southeast Friday into Saturday. It defied the mayor's order to limit groups to 50 people.

The chief said it's a trend happening throughout the DMV — and unfortunately, this one ended tragically.

A 17-year-old father, Christopher Brown, was shot to death when police said at least three gunmen opened fire at around 12:20 a.m. Saturday. A female off-duty officer was also seriously injured. Chief Newsham said 19 others sustained non-life threatening injuries.

“Nobody can predict that a shooting like this is going to happen at a gathering like this, but we can’t have these large gatherings in the city," Chief Newsham said at a press conference Sunday.

Credit: Courtesy of Octavia Brown
17-year-old Christopher Brown with his son Elijah.

Despite community members circulating flyers advertising the block party days before, police said organizers did not have a permit for the party.

WUSA9 reached out to confirm if the organizer had requested a permit but did not hear back Sunday.

The Mayor's COVID-19 guidelines prohibit groups larger than 50, with a possible fine of up to $1,000 for violating it.

“It’s important as a community that we have a zero-tolerance for this kind of activity," Mayor Bowser said Sunday.

But, when it comes to enforcement, MPD said recently it is hoping for community compliance.

Chief Newsham said they did not have enough officers to break up this party.

He did comment Sunday on a gathering from a couple of weeks ago in Oxon Run, where an ANC Commissioner said police did not intervene.

"That story has not actually been told accurately. For those who know what happened over in Oxon Run Park. There was a gathering there," he said. "We were able to get sufficient police officers over there to break up that group, and that’s what we should have done here.”

The chief stressed that these gatherings are not only happening in DC.

Across the state line in Prince George's County, a mansion party prompted County Executive Angela Alsobrooks to increase penalties for groups larger than 50 to a possible year in jail and $5,000 fine.

Some community members are calling on Mayor Bowser to take a similar step.

WUSA9 reached out to the person neighbors said organized the party and did not hear back.

Credit: @allhomage/Dawn Trout
This is a screenshot of the flyer advertising the DC party where 21 people were shot.

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