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Arguments over ride, slashed tires led to intern's death, court papers say

Washington Post Editors

D.C. Council intern Alonte Sutton was fatally shot by a man who slashed his tires after Sutton had said he could not give him or his girlfriend a ride in his car, according to documents filed in D.C. Superior Court on Wednesday.

According to the documents, Omare I. Cotton, 28, became "angry" during a May 6 conversation. After the conversation, Cotton slashed the tires on Sutton’s car.

Sutton’s body was found Sunday in a wooded ravine in the 200 block of Newcomb Street SE near the St. Elizabeths Hospital campus. Court records said Sutton, 18, who had worked for D.C. Council member Michael A. Brown (I-At Large), had been shot several times.

Cotton — who is known to police as someone who hangs out in the neighborhood where Sutton’s body was found — was arrested Tuesday and charged with first-degree, premeditated murder. Cotton was on probation in Maryland after being convicted of robbery and first-degree assault. After Cotton’s arrest, detectives found a glass vial containing a liquid they determined might have been PCP.

A D.C magistrate judge Wednesday ordered Cotton held in D.C. jail until his preliminary hearing, which is scheduled for May 27.

Cotton and Sutton got into an argument Friday after Cotton slashed the tires on Sutton’s car, according to the documents. One witness who observed the altercation attempted to calm Cotton before another person advised the witness to leave Cotton alone before Cotton “goes and gets his gun.”

A witness flagged down a nearby police officer, but both Cotton and Sutton had left the area. Sutton never reported the incident to police.

Sometime Saturday, when Sutton returned to the area to fix the tires, Cotton appeared and began assaulting Sutton, according to the documents. An unidentified witness overheard Cotton threatening Sutton, saying he was trying to get Cotton arrested for slashing the tires since Cotton was already on probation. The witness said Cotton wasn’t wearing a shirt and had a full beard and low haircut.

Minutes later, several witnesses watched a shirtless man chase another man into the wooded area, and then heard multiple gunshots. The witnesses said they then saw only one man, armed with a semiautomatic handgun, leave the area.

D.C. police have opened an internal investigation into their response to the shooting after witnesses said officers did not thoroughly investigate the scene Saturday.

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier defended her officers at a Ward 5 neighborhood meeting Tuesday evening. “Were you there? Do you know what happened? No,” she said. “I can’t respond to something I don’t know any more about. We are looking into it.”

Identification could be challenging in the case. According to the court documents, three witnesses said they saw a man working on his vehicle Saturday and then watched another shirtless man chase the man into the woods, heard the gunshots and saw only one man leave the woods. None of the witnesses who watched the chase and overheard the gunshots said they could positively identify the man who chased the victim and who later exited the wooded area.

One of the witnesses said the man who fled the woods had his hair in cornrows and was stockily built. Another witness said the man was 6 foot 5, thin, and had no facial hair.

Another witness who watched the argument over the tires was shown a set of nine photographs and tentatively identified two different men as being the one seen arguing with Cotton, police said. A detective then took the photo array from the witness and told the witness to focus on the numerous times Cotton was seen in the neighborhood, and the witness then picked the photo of Cotton.

Cotton admitted to fighting Sutton and slashing his tires, according to the documents, but denied killing him.

-- Keith L. Alexander

By Washington Post Editors  |  May 12, 2010; 4:15 PM ET
Categories:  From the Courthouse , Keith L. Alexander , The District , Updates  
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People saw a man chasing a man with a semiautomatic weapon into a wooded area, heard shots, saw only one man exit the wooded area but did not call the police. People are non-responsive to things like this until it happens to them or one of their love ones. You are your "Brother's Keeper" in a case such as this. This article makes it seem like these people were watching television.

Posted by: SBRUCE8 | May 12, 2010 7:44 PM | Report abuse

This is tragic. The poor kid was terrorized by this crazed man. Now the family is left to deal with the actions of an idiot drug addict. How can this happen?

Posted by: brandip_77 | May 12, 2010 9:23 PM | Report abuse

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