ONCE A KILLER, NOW A VIC­TIM

Con­vict’s death comes as D.C. slay­ing rate falls

The Washington Post Sunday - - METRO - BY PETER HER­MANN

Raasheem Ja­mal Rich com­mit­ted one of the District’s 474 killings in 1990, con­tribut­ing to a body count that earned the city the du­bi­ous dis­tinc­tion of “mur­der cap­i­tal of Amer­ica.” In Jan­uary, he be­came the first homi­cide

vic­tim of 2013, a year that started with the fewest killings in re­cent me­mory.

The 40-year-old parolee was one of just four peo­ple slain in the District last month, although a fifth was added to the of­fi­cial count af­ter a man­shot in 2011 died Wed­nes­day in a nurs­ing home in Prince Ge­orge’s County. It’s the fourth con­sec­u­tive Jan­uary that the District has recorded killings in the sin­gle dig­its, con­tin­u­ing a down­ward trend also seen in many other cities.

Rich spent two decades in prison, dur­ing which the num­ber of peo­ple killed in the District plum­meted. His con­vic­tion two decades ago and his vi­o­lent death this year con­nect two wildly dif­fer­ent mo­ments in the his­tory of crime in the city.

The killings in the early ’90s turned the na­tion’s cap­i­tal into the coun­try’s epi­cen­ter of vi­o­lence and drug abuse. The im­age is dif­fer­ent to­day. Just days be­fore Rich was fa­tally stabbed on the af­ter­noon of Jan. 10 out­side a liquor store on Alabama Av­enue in South­east Washington, the District’s mayor and po­lice chief hailed a mile­stone: 88 slay­ings in

2012, the fewest in 51 years.

Each num­ber, of course, cor­re­sponds to a name, and added up over the years, the statis­tics and faces blur — more than 7,000 killed in the District since 1988, when slay­ings be­gan to surge at the on­set of the crack co­caine epi­demic. Vic­tims’ fam­i­lies grieve, although there are fewer of them now; they cope with pain that does not di­min­ish even as statis­tics say the city is now safer from the worst cat­e­gory of crime.

Rich’s wife, Miah Rich, 37, grew up in South­east Washington and was in high school when the shoot­ings soared. “Mas­sive num­bers,” she said of the dead and wounded, re­call­ing los­ing friends and class­mates. “Killing be­came so rou­tine it be­came scary,” she said. “Death be­came a way of life. I knew grand­moth­ers and all their friends who were still alive, but their grand­kids weren’t.”

Miah Rich was a friend of Raasheem’s at that time. It was just four months af­ter his 18th birth­day, in June 1990, when he saw An­thony Miguel An­der­son with his girl­friend at a car­ni­val at RFK Sta­dium and fa­tally stabbed him in front of a Bank-A-Ball game booth. A jury found him guilty, and he was sen­tenced to 12 to 36 years in prison.

Rich dis­ap­peared be­hind bars at the peak of the District’s homi­cide epi­demic. There were 52 slay­ings in Jan­uary 1989 and again in Jan­uary 1990, ac­cord­ing to Washington Post records. A D.C. po­lice study of such crimes from 1998 through 2000 con­cluded that more peo­ple were killed in the first three months of those years than at any other time of the year, con­found­ing con­ven­tional wis­dom that hot sum­mer nights ig­nite pas­sions and cre­ate killers.

Over the en­su­ing years, the num­ber of killings dropped not only in Washington but also in other cities. New York set a record low in 2012 with 414, and like Washington, the Big Ap­ple is hold­ing firm this month. Slay­ings are also down this year in Philadel­phia and Baltimore; Bos­ton, which had 59 slay­ings in 2012, is one of the few large cities other than Washington boast­ing sin­gledigit homi­cide num­bers this Jan­uary, with three.

Chicago is a no­table ex­cep­tion, with at least 42 killings last month, in­clud­ing nine in a sin­gle week­end, mak­ing it the dead­li­est Jan­uary there in a decade.

The four killings com­mit­ted in the District in Jan­uary dif­fered in type and lo­ca­tion. Po­lice have made ar­rests in two of the cases. The lat­est vic­tim is Siobhan Ni­cole Lee, 18, of Takoma Park, who po­lice said was shot in the head in North­west Washington by a man she met on an In­ter­net dat­ing site. Be­fore her was Tracy McFad­den, 44, shot dead on Ge­or­gia Av­enue, also in North­west Washington. Do­minic An­thony Davis, 27, was the sec­ond vic­tim of 2013, found shot on 57th Street NE.

Raasheem Rich, who was paroled in April 2010 from Rivers Cor­rec­tional In­sti­tu­tion in Win­ton, N.C., was the first per­son to be killed this year, stabbed about 3:30 p.m. on Jan. 10. Po­lice said there was a dis­pute in­side Alabama Ex­press Liquors, in the 2800 block of Alabama Av­enue SE; sur­veil­lance video shows three men, two of them wear­ing yel­low re­flec­tive vests, as pos­si­ble sus­pects. One man has been ar­rested.

The ar­gu­ment spilled out­side, and po­lice said Rich was stabbed with a pock­etknife in the left side of the chest. Wit­nesses told de­tec­tives that Rich ripped off his bloody shirt and col­lapsed in a park­ing lot. He later died at a hospi­tal.

Miah Rich said her hus­band might have known one or two of the men in the ar­gu­ment. She said her hus­band was killed in a petty dis­pute — “an un­for­tu­nate act of vi­o­lence,” she called it — as he strug­gled to find work while on pa­role for sec­ond-de­gree mur­der. “He had a hard life,” Rich said, but noted that his three chil­dren all at­tended col­lege.

“He was at a point in his life where he was frus­trated about the lack of op­por­tu­ni­ties for guys on pa­role,” Rich said. “He wanted to do some­thing men­tor­ing chil­dren.” But she said one non­profit group af­ter an­other looked at his back­ground and turned him down, and he picked up me­nial-la­bor jobs un­til he found vol­un­teer work help­ing teach chil­dren to box.

“It made him so ex­cited,” Rich said. “He felt he was giv­ing some­thing back.”

Rich didn’t want to talk about what had put her hus­band in prison, but she de­scribed his go­ing from con­victed killer to vic­tim as karma, one act in­flu­enc­ing an­other. That shouldn’t ex­cuse his killer, she said, adding that pros­e­cu­tors — who de­clined to com­ment — told her they’re con­sid­er­ing of­fer­ing the man ar­rested in Rich’s death a deal that would re­duce his first-de­gree mur­der charge to manslaugh­ter.

He would serve nine to 16 years in prison, less time than Raasheem Rich got for killing the man at the car­ni­val. Said his wife: “To me, this is not jus­tice.”

FAM­ILY PHOTO

Raasheem Ja­mal Rich, 40, was im­pris­oned for a mur­der he com­mit­ted in 1990, when there were 474 killings. His slay­ing this year comes as the District’s homi­cide rate has fallen sharply.

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