Gang Members Discussed Meeting at Zoo Prior to Shooting: Police

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The director of Smithsonian's National Zoo told community members he's rethinking the popular family destination's security plans. News4's Jackie Bensen reports. (Published Wednesday, Apr 23, 2014)

    In the wake of a shooting across the street from the National Zoo during an event targeted to families, police admitted they had received information prior to the event that there could be an incident.

    A week before Monday's shooting, a large group was kicked out of the zoo and got into a brawl that blocked rush hour traffic in the Woodley Park neighborhood. It's possible that the two incidents may be related.

    Monday's shooting happened as the zoo hosted thousands of people during an annual Easter Monday celebration. Two 18-year-old men were shot just after 5 p.m. that day, one in the arm and the other in the hand. Both are expected to be OK.

    No suspect or motive information has been released, but during a community meeting Wednesday, officers provided more information on the events surrounding the shooting, as well as an incident a week earlier that may be related.

    Lance Ware with Metro Transit Police said that on April 14 -- one week before the Easter Monday shooting -- a large group was kicked out of the zoo for disruptive behavior. Shortly after, the same group was captured on video several blocks away from the zoo.

    The video shows a very large group milling around on Calvert Street and the Duke Ellington Bridge, blocking traffic. Members of the crowd were shown yelling at each other. The crowd dispersed when shots rang out. No one was injured in that incident.

    "That day [April 14], we did get some intel about gang members planning to meet up at the zoo, and they wanted to fight," Ware said.

    Though it's not yet known if the groups are related, police admitted there were indications that similar problems were possible Monday, and that it appears as though the two shooting victims were targeted.

    "Some intel came down through MPD in regards to some social media chatter that acknowledged that, once again, there might be some disruption in the zoo," said National Zoo Police Chief Terrell Wilson.

    In light of those incidents, National Zoo Director Dennis Kelly told the public Wednesday he will go back to the drawing board regarding safety at the zoo.

    "We cannot maintain our position as Washington, D.C.'s favorite place for families with children... unless we make it safe," Kelly said. "We're going to go back to the drawing board... rethinking everything."

    At some points, Wednesday's community meeting got slightly heated. Neighbors living close to the zoo asked Kelly why there is virtually no security upon entering the zoo.

    "Why has the city not addressed this problem before it got [to Northwest]? This is happening every day on the other side of the city," one community member told the officials. "It's going to hit everybody now. We can't run away from the problem."

    Kelly said zoo officials will consider enhanced security measures.

    "Every other Smithsonian, every other museum in town does bag searches and body checks, metal detectors...." he said. "I'm not promising it, but I'm saying it has to be considered. It will be considered."