Three weeks after accusing a 14-year-old boy of driving the getaway car in a South Capitol Street shooting spree that left four dead, District authorities dropped all charges against him in the case.
The youth was arrested just moments after a drive-by attack that also left five young people wounded. He was charged as a juvenile with 41 counts, including first-degree murder. He has been locked up since the March 30 shooting and remains in District custody on unrelated charges, city officials said.
But on Thursday, authorities say they've had the wrong person locked up. Instead, they've charged Robert Bost, 22, with murder and obtained a warrant seeking another man.
They've also arrested Lamar Williams, 22, who they say provided the AK-47 used in the shooting spree.
Authorities defended their arrest and detainment of the youth, saying that they found him in a nearby school just moments after the four gunmen bailed out of the getaway car. But when fingerprint evidence exonerating the youth came in on Wednesday, Attorney General Peter Nickles said he moved swiftly to drop the charges.
“I apologize. In a perfect world, we would never have mistakes,” Nickles said.
For families of the victims, though, the turn of events was insult to their injuries.
“You can't grieve properly,” said Nardyne Jefferies, whose daughter, Brishell Jones, was killed in the March 30 shootings. “It's one roller coaster ride after another.”
Sources with intimate knowledge of the investigation told the Washington Examiner that evidence of the youth's innocence began piling up in recent weeks, after accused gunman Nathaniel Simms began cooperating with investigators.
Nickles also blasted the Examiner for having published the youth's name, which Nickles claimed was “unlawful.”
He was referring to a law that allows members of the news media to attend juvenile hearings provided they sign a promise not to identify the youth. The Examiner did not attend those hearings.
In a statement, the newspaper said:
“The Washington Examiner is aware of no rule or city statute violated by naming the juvenile who at the time was charged with four homicides and numerous other crimes. Mr. Nickles apparently is referring to a stipulation some news organizations entered into under which they would not name the juvenile in return for attending juvenile proceedings. But The Examiner did not sign that stipulation or attend the proceedings. “The Examiner's policy on naming juveniles charged with crimes is the same as many newspapers: In most cases, we do not do it. In very rare cases involving particularly heinous charges, the Examiner believes the public's interest in knowing details of an alleged crime supersedes a juvenile's privacy rights.”
Authorities believe that the March 30 killings stemmed from an earlier killing over costume jewelry. On March 22, Jordan Howe was shot dead at a raucous party on South Alabama Street.
Prosecutors have accused brothers Sanquan and Orlando Carter of murder in Howe's killing. They say Sanquan Carter was enraged to discover that his gold-colored bracelet had gone missing. Sanquan Carter was arrested a day after Howe's death, but Orlando Carter remained at large.
He was later shot in the face but survived. On March 30, the day of Howe's funeral, prosecutors say he and his friends piled into a rented minivan to seek revenge. They shot one rival in a housing development in Southeast and then saw a crowd of Howe's friends gathered on South Capitol Street, prosecutors have alleged.