The night of January 8 was chilly in the nation’s capital and 18-year-old Malik Cisse was blowing on his hands to warm them up a bit as he walked on 7th Street NW. Yet he had no idea it was going to be his last walk.
The next moment, a white SUV pulled up and fatal shots were fired from inside the vehicle. This was the seventh homicide in town in less than 10 days into 2020.
The motive for what happened to Cisse in the Shaw neighborhood near Washington Convention Center remains mysterious. So does the identity of the person who pulled the trigger. One thing that is clear after the teenager’s death, though, is that D.C. didn’t enjoy a good start of the New Year in terms of safety. Not in the least!
The community, in fact, had not been yet completely over the trauma it suffered after a group of suspects lynched and robbed a man in broad daylight on New Year’s Day only a couple of blocks away, right outside the U.S. Government Accountability Office on H Street NW.
Their victim thankfully survived the attack, but the incident’s footage raised eyebrows: What is going on in our city with all this violence?
See Where Most Incidents Happen on Map
While trying to bring perpetrators to justice, the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) has also invested resources in ensuring transparency about crime data in D.C. To that end, it has made available an online tool with which anybody can see where in town most incidents occur.
What the department calls Crime Cards show them on a heat map, allowing users to select their comparison criteria such as date, location and type of crime.
According to those MPD statistics, the capital city saw over 10,000 incidents of violent crime between 2016 and 2018, and this figure dropped by some 20 percent to nearly 8,000 over the past two years.
The subsets of the same data set, however, tell of a different trend for homicides in particular, which actually went up from 251 to 324 by a staggering 29 percent over the same periods, from 2016-2018 to 2018-2020.
2019: A Cruel Year in Town
In fact, 2019 was the deadliest year in town in more than a decade with 166 homicide victims. The last time more people were killed in D.C. under such circumstances was 2008, when 186 individuals succumbed to injuries they sustained in violent attacks.
The law enforcement attributes the increase in tragedies over time mainly to the abundance of illegal guns on D.C. streets. Population growth, however, might have played a part, as well.
“We are doing everything we possibly can to put an end to this violence,” D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham said at the close-of-the-year press conference for 2019.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau‘s latest estimates, D.C. population saw only a slight increase from 2018 onwards, but there were about a 100,000 more people in town as of July last year than in April, 2010. MPD, on the other hand, recovered more than 2,000 illegal firearms in 2019, up from 1,722 the previous year.
The threat, however, goes beyond firearms.
Wendy Martinez (35) was a graduate of prestigious Georgetown University and working as chief of staff at a tech company in the District. She planned on tying the knot with her fiancé, Daniel Hincapie, only a week later. Death, however, did them part too early.
As was one of her greatest hobbies, Martinez went on a run near Logan Circle on September 18, 2018. And only three blocks from her residence, she fell victim to a brazen knife attack.
Police have characterized the fatal assault as “random” as her killer, who said he had stolen the knife he used in the attack from a nearby store, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Despite sending shockwaves throughout Greater Washington, Martinez’s death hasn’t remained an isolated incident.
About a year later, 27 year-old Margery Magill was stabbed to death in another such attack, whose motive according to the law enforcement was neither robbery nor sexual assault, on Irving Street NW.
Following a blood trail for approximately a quarter mile the same day as the attack on August 27, police officers found the suspect nursing a bleeding finger in his father’s residence. He said a “dark force” spoke to him and “things got out of hand” but denied stabbing Magill. He was eventually charged with first-degree murder while armed.
“We stand in solidarity with them in this difficult hour,” Martinez’s family, who had gone through the same agony 11 months ago, said in a statement addressing Magill’s.