Brookland Middle School student Karon Blake, 13, was fatally shot during the early morning hours of Jan. 7 in northeast D.C. (Courtesy of MPD Critically Missing in August 2021)
Brookland Middle School student Karon Blake, 13, was fatally shot during the early morning hours of Jan. 7 in northeast D.C. (Courtesy of MPD Critically Missing in August 2021)

When public officials, advocates and relatives of Karon Blake converged on Turkey Thicket Recreation Center for a community meeting on Tuesday night, the name of Karon’s alleged killer still hadn’t been released to the public, nor had they been criminally charged. 

Throughout much of that evening, community members from across the District interrupted the dialogue and belted chants in their appeal for the alleged shooter’s name — at times to the chagrin of some of Karon’s family members. 

Some people also took to the microphone, at times comparing Karon’s case to that of Trayvon Martin, who was shot and killed by George Zimmerman in 2012. Others delved into aspects of the District concealed weapons laws and asked why the shooter’s identity had been hidden. 

Hours before the community meeting, MPD Chief Robert Contee said the alleged shooter was Black and not a law enforcement official. A day later, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) confirmed the alleged shooter’s employment with the District government. 

Beyond that, city officials have declined to speak further on specifics of the investigation. 

Even with requests that residents respect a process, which includes the collection of evidence and a grand jury investigation, many people, including Karon’s grandfather Sean Long, continue to demand accountability and transparency. 

“When they lock us up, they don’t ask questions. We get a lawyer and the jury deals with us,” Long said as he reflected on Karon’s death and that of Karon’s father, his son, who was murdered at Forestville Mall in District Heights, Maryland in 2009. 

“I saw a lot of kids get killed, but this is the worst death I’ve been through,” said Long, a Southeast resident. “Let’s get these murderers off the street. There’s too much killing. Officers, do your job. Lock them up and let the jury deal with them. Do your job. Stop thinking about the money.” 

Karon Blake, a 13-year-old Brookland Middle School student who many describe as a lighthearted, charismatic being with a love for fashion, was killed during the early morning hours of Saturday, Jan. 7 when a District resident shot him on the 1000 block of Quincy Street in Northeast. 

The alleged shooter, who called police after shooting Karon and performed CPR,  approached the young man believing that the teenager was tampering with vehicles in the neighborhood. 

Karon, an alumnus of Noyes Elementary School in Northeast, continued his academic journey at Brookland Middle School last academic year. He was the oldest of four children. In the summer of 2021, Karon was listed as critically missing. MPD later said he had been found safe and sound. 

Karon’s death comes months after the Juneteenth murder of Chase Poole, another Brookland Middle School student. On Monday,  DCPS central office dispatched mental health personnel to Brookland Middle School to support students and staff who are reeling from the death of another community member. 

Amid all the mourning, questions continue to circulate about the investigation. A community member who requested anonymity said that MPD’s hesitance to release the name of Karon’s alleged shooter will worsen matters for those who knew him. 

“Every day this goes by [without the shooter identified], it leaves the wound open,” the community member said. “Just put it out there and let’s deal with any fallout, if any. I want the shooter to reflect on this. What prompted them in that moment to arm themselves and go outside to handle what sounds like an alleged illegal activity? The speculation will fuel the fire. This has gone beyond D.C. now. It’s viral.” 

Since Karon’s death, local organizations including Black-led abolitionist hub Harriet’s Dreams, Ward 5 Mutual Aid and DC Safety Squad have collaborated to press for answers about the circumstances of Karon’s death. They’re also calling for members of the public to submit camera footage, if any, from the morning of Jan. 7. 

A bevy of elected officials, including Parker, Bowser, and D.C. Councilmember Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2) also weighed in on the situation, saying that calling the police should’ve been the initial response to any concerns about illegal activity. 

As of Wednesday, MPD has recorded six homicides citywide, twice than what had been documented at that time last year. Karon’s death counts as the District’s third homicide in the new year. It follows that of 33-year-old Benjie Byers, who was shot and killed on Georgia Avenue on Jan. 4, and 17-year-old Martez Toney who died in a similar fashion on Alabama Avenue on Jan. 3. 

Throughout the weekend, District officers responded to the scene of another murder in Navy Yard in Southeast and the 2000 block of Gallaudet Street in Northeast that claimed the life of Terry Clark, 20, and Jasmine “Star” Mack, 36, respectively. 

The District wrapped up 2022 with 203 homicides. In response, Bowser sent a letter to the D.C. Council on Jan. 4 declaring her veto of the unanimously passed Revised Criminal Code Act. 

She expressed concern about provisions that significantly lower penalties for home invasions and carjackings and car break-ins, and forbid charging convicted felons with unauthorized firearm possession. Bowser also said that elements of RCCA, including the expansion of jury trials to misdemeanors, could be deliberated on as standalone bills. 

Despite Bowser’s objection, Parker said he plans to vote to override the mayor’s veto in the coming weeks.

Since Karon’s death, Parker has been in contact with community members in Brookland, as well as Karon’s grandmother and officials at MPD Fifth District.  He has also spoken with Bowser, Brookland Middle School principal Kerry Richardson and officials at the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement. 

On Tuesday night, Parker, who also requested information related to the incident, continued his call for MPD to release the name of Karon’s alleged killer and take the appropriate action against them. He said that, even with concerns about break-ins and carjackings, the resident who shot Karon should’ve called 911 instead of taking action. 

“This is a tragedy that shouldn’t have happened,” Parker said. “We need to reflect on why young people are breaking into cars. My sympathy goes to Karon’s family and the community that’s torn. What needs to be consistent is that the resident [who shot and killed Karon Blake] needs to be held accountable.”

Sam P.K. Collins

Sam P.K. Collins has more than a decade of experience as a journalist, columnist and organizer. Sam, a millennial and former editor of WI Bridge, covers education, police brutality, politics, and other...

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  1. So please do tell us what was Karon doing tampering with cars at 4am when he should have been under adult supervision at home and in bed?

  2. I am particularly disgusted by the comparison of Blake with Trayvon. Trayvon wasn’t out breaking into cars and being a little thug.

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