Guilty plea in mass DC shooting
One of the five men arrested in connection with a series of fatal shootings last month that left five people dead --including a mass drive-by shooting -- pleaded guilty Thursday to five counts of second-degree murder while armed and is cooperating with police investigators in one of the deadliest outbreaks of violence in the city in years.
Under increased security in a D.C. Superior courtroom, Nathaniel Simms, 26, told Judge Michael L. Rankin that he agreed to cooperate with prosecutors by giving a detailed account of the fatal shootings that culminated in the March 30 drive-by that killed three people dead and injured six others as they stood outside an apartment building in the 4000 block of S. Capitol Street SE.
Five men, including Simms, were charged with multiple counts of first-degree, premeditated murder in the shootings. Also charged in the attacks were Orlando Carter, 20, Robert Bost, 22, Jeffrey D. Best, 21, and Lamar Williams, 22. The four other suspects have pleaded not guilty in earlier hearings.
But Simms is the first to cooperate with police and provide names and details of the accounts in exchange for lesser charges.
Simms told police that he used an AK-47 style assault rifle and pointed it outside the window of a rented minivan at people who had gathered outside the South Capitol Street apartment building after attending the funeral of Jordan Howe, 20.
In addition to the drive-by, Simms admitted to being present at the March 22 shooting of Howe in the 1300 block of Alabama Ave SE. That shooting was over a missing bracelet belonging to Carter’s younger brother, Sanquan, authorities said. Simms also admitted to being in the same minivan moments before the drive-by when Tavon Nelson, 17, was killed.
That shooting occurred about five minutes before the men drove the rented minivan down South Capitol Street and began shooting at a group of people who had just attended Howe’s funeral, police said. DaVaughn Boyd, 18, William Jones III, 19, and Brishell Jones, 16, all died in the attack.
“I accept the charges,” the slightly built Simms said softly, standing next to his court-appointed attorney James Williams. Williams told Rankin that his client has been moved to a separate facility at the D.C. jail, and asked Rankin to allow Simms to wear a hood, so people in the courtroom gallery could not identify him during the hearing. Rankin denied that request.
Simms faces a minimum sentence of five years in prison for each murder charge to a maximum of life in prison. He also faces a maximum of 30 years for two counts of conspiracy to commit murder. If Simms’s testimony against his four friends is found to be credible, prosecutors could petition Rankin for a lesser sentence.
The plea bargain angered many family members of the victims who filled up several rows of the courtroom. “I can’t understand how you can admit to shooting an AK-47 at people and it not be first-degree murder,” said Nardyne Jefferies, mother of the youngest shooting victim. “That’s why there are so many murderers walking the streets now.”
Another hearing is scheduled for Friday for Best, Bost and Williams.
-- Keith L. Alexander
Washington Post editors
April 29, 2010; 4:25 PM ET
Categories: From the Courthouse , Homicide , Keith L. Alexander , The District
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