The Washington Post

Man is fatally stabbed inside Petworth Library


James Salt had just settled in front of a computer in the Petworth Library on Thursday evening when he heard screams.

At the long wood table behind him, where he’d been logging onto a computer for his 6-yearold son and 8-year-old daughter, one man appeared to be punching another man, Salt said in an interview.

Salt said he leaped from his chair and grabbed the attacker’s arm. In the man’s hand, he saw a knife.

“Call 911! Call the police,” Salt, 46, said he yelled, backing away.

The other man, authoritie­s said, had been fatally stabbed.

Police described the incident as the culminatio­n of a complicate­d long-standing dispute between two men, who were both homeless.

The man who authoritie­s alleged had the knife — 36-yearold David Howard — told investigat­ors that the other man — 45-year-old Ali Zarrincala­ki — was responsibl­e for his friend dying from an overdose, police charging documents allege. Zarrincala­ki, who was fatally stabbed, had previously told authoritie­s that Howard had burned down his tent.

Howard, who was charged with first-degree murder in the incident, told investigat­ors that he had manic depression. He was held without bond Friday.

“It is heartbreak­ing that this occurred in a public space that should be safe for all of us,” said D.C. Council member Janeese Lewis George (D-ward 4). “Our libraries are places of refuge and education and family and community.”

Zarrincala­ki had been matched with a housing voucher in July, Lewis George said. He was still waiting for his placement.

Neither relatives for Zarrincala­ki nor Howard could be reached.

The killing — in front of two young children sharing a desk chair — marked the District’s 38th homicide in the first three months of the year. Some of the violence has unfolded near bustling, public spaces. There have been shootings in a Metro station, in an intersecti­on teeming with restaurant­s and near Audi Field, where D.C. United played its home opener. Homicides are up 36 percent over the same time last year, though violent crime overall is down 9 percent.

“It is heartbreak­ing that this occurred in a public space that should be safe for all of us.” D.C. Council member Janeese Lewis George

“This is very unfortunat­e this happened tonight with other people in there,” said Executive Assistant Chief Ashan Benedict.

The public library system announced that the Petworth Library — a popular gathering spot in the neighborho­od — will be closed until Monday “in considerat­ion of DC Public Library staff who were present during this traumatic event.”

On Thursday, Zarrincala­ki was seated at one of the wooden tables in a computer room when Howard swiftly stabbed him with a large butcher knife, police alleged in court documents. Blood splattered on the monitor of a computer.

Moments later, according to Salt and court records, multiple people in the library rushed toward the men.

One person, who was using another computer, ran to Howard and started pulling him away from Zarrincala­ki, according to the records. Another person, who was in the library completing an assignment, told police that they helped press Howard into the ground. A third put him in a leg lock. A fourth kicked away the knife.

Salt knelt beside Zarrincala­ki, who he said “died in my lap.”

As blood pooled around the man, Salt looked at him and said, “You are loved.”

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