The shooting death of 65-year-old grandmother Ella-Mae Neal on May 19 has ignited a discussion in the District on the increasing homicide rate and what must be done to control it.

On May 19, a D.C. Metropolitan Police report revealed Mrs. Neal stood outside of her home on the 1800 block of Q Street., S.E., when a car pulled close to her and shot her in the leg around 10 p.m. A police officer patrolling the neighborhood heard the shots and responded.

Mrs. Neal, grandmother of 30, was taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Police are actively seeking the killers; in the latest development the vehicle of interest in the investigation found to be on fire on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway Thursday.

Mrs. Neal’s killing comes as the MPD reported as of May 21 the city’s homicide rate for the year to date increased 35 percent over this time last year. As of May 21, 74 people have been killed compared to 55 individuals the same time year. The MPD also reports assault with a dangerous weapon has increased one percent and all violent crime has gone up two percent.

Charlene Coleman visited the makeshift memorial outside of the building Mrs. Neal resided in on May 22. On the sidewalk in front of the building the words “Ella Mae Neal: Mother of the Hood” were etched in pink chalk. Coleman, speaking through tears, talked about Mrs. Neal whom she considered a close friend.

“She was a loving, caring person,” Coleman said. “She would do anything for anybody. Who would want to hurt my friend? We need to put the guns down. This needs to stop. I know that Black Lives Matter but everybody’s life matters, too.”

Mary Hopkins resides in Mrs. Neal’s building. She agreed with Coleman “that violence has gotten out of control in this city.”

“People are just riding around and just shooting at anybody,” Hopkins said. “The criminals doing this are angry and upset and they are taking it out on anybody. Ella-Mae was a strong woman. I happened to be around when she got shot and I saw her laying on the sidewalk before the policeman came. I tried to comfort her, saying ‘You are not going to leave us.’ The policeman came by and he did his best to help her.”

While D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser hasn’t specifically commented on the Neal shooting death, she said the uptick in homicides is the result of “defund the police” efforts of the D.C. Council, WJLA-TV reported Thursday. Bowser said more police officers are needed and the city hasn’t been able to hire more due to council budget cuts, WJLA reported. Former Ward 5 advisory neighborhood commissioner and pro-law enforcement activist Kathy Henderson, who has disagreed with Bowser in the past, concurs with the mayor.

“Ella-Mae’s killing was senseless,” Henderson said. “There are some people who feel emboldened to kill people. Most homicide victims in this city are Black, as are the perpetrators. Angry people tend to lash out at people who look like them. No shootings like this take place in Cleveland Park or on Kalorama Road. That wouldn’t be tolerated. The city council needs to step up and fully fund the police department.”

Henderson said the mayor’s initiative, Building Blocks DC, designed to offer social services and life skills to criminals and their victims, is admirable but not the solution to combating the increasing homicide rate.

“We don’t need more services, we need enforcement,” she said. “We need our police officers to be able to protect the city. These criminals have no fear and they have no internal control in their lives.”

James Wright Jr.

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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1 Comment

  1. We need better laws. Stop saying it’s the police fault. Judges and attorneys need to be held accountable!!!!!! Repeated Offenders are the ones killing us!!!!

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