Crime and Courts

4 Hurt in Van Ness ‘Sniper-Type' Shooting, Suspect Found Dead: DC Police

Police say four people were shot in the Van Ness neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

NBC Universal, Inc.

At least four people, including a 12-year-old girl, were shot when a gunman unleashed more than 100 rounds of bullets in the nation's capital Friday, leading to lockdowns at several schools and leaving a community on edge before the suspect was found dead hours later.

The suspected gunman was found dead Friday night inside an apartment at the scene as Metropolitan Police Department officers conducted door-to-door searches of buildings in the area.

Metropolitan Police Department Chief Robert Contee holds a news conference announcing the suspect in the shooting of four people in the Van Ness neighborhood was found dead.

Police believe the man had erected a “sniper-type setup" with a tripod and rifle in his apartment and began firing indiscriminately at people walking below, Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee said.

The four victims — a 54-year-old man who is a retired police officer, a woman in her 30s, a woman in her mid-60s who was grazed by a bullet, and a 12-year-old girl who was shot in the arm — were all expected to recover, police said. For hours, authorities had warned worried residents to stay inside their homes while they conducted a massive manhunt for the shooter.

A woman who was grazed by a bullet in the Van Ness shooting spoke with News4's Aimee Cho about the incident.

DC Shooting Suspect Raymond Spencer Found Dead

Police identified 23-year-old Raymond Spencer of Fairfax, Virginia, as a person of interest about 7:30 p.m.

Sources close to the investigation say he was found dead in a bathroom at the AVA Van Ness apartment building on Van Ness Street. Chief of Police Robert Contee would not identify the suspect but said they are no longer looking for a person of interest. Police do not believe there are any other suspects.

The man had been “linked to social media postings” that emerged as part of the investigation, Assistant Police Chief Stuart Emerman said.

Van Ness Shooting Suspect Weapons Cache
Metropolitan Police Department
Weapons found in the Van Ness shooting investigation.

‘Sniper-Type Setup’ Found in DC Apartment

Police recovered six firearms, including long guns, and multiple rounds of ammunition in the apartment.

“This was very much a sniper-type setup with a tripod, and this person, obviously, his intent was to kill and hurt members of our community,” Contee said.

Contee said police are looking into where the weapons came from, but said preliminary information indicated they were obtained legally.

“We know that over 100 rounds were fired from a long gun, and there are probably going to be a lot of bullet holes that we are going to find,” Contee said Saturday.

Van Ness Shooting Timeline

The gunfire erupted shortly before 3:30 p.m. near the corner of Connecticut Avenue and Van Ness St. in the Van Ness neighborhood of Washington, just as parents were picking up their children from the Edmund Burke School, a private college preparatory school.

“It just appears that this person was just shooting at anyone who was out there randomly,” Contee said hours later.

Initial calls reported an active shooter. The incident was centered in the 2900 block of Van Ness Street NW, police said, although they initially gave the location as the 4100 block of Connecticut Avenue NW, which is around the corner.

The echoing bursts of rapid gunfire rocked the normally quiet neighborhood that’s home to several schools and colleges and dozens of embassies. It sent frantic parents running from the scene and put Burke, the University of the District of Columbia and other nearby schools on immediate lockdown.

A message sent from the Alert DC system warned people of an “active threat” and to “shelter in place if you are nearby.”

Contee later said that MPD officers were able to determine that the shooting was coming from the fifth floor by collaborating with members of the community.

Officers in tactical gear could be seen running in the area; others had their guns drawn as they evacuated residents of the AVA apartment building.

Assistant Chief of Police Stuart Emerman said in a public update about 5:30 p.m. that no suspects were in custody, although people fleeing the scene had been interviewed.

About 7:30 p.m., police announced they were looking for Spencer as a person of interest.

Around that same time, Mayor Muriel Bowser said officials had begun to reunify Burke students with their parents. There was a family reunification site at the Cleveland Park Library at 3310 Connecticut Avenue NW.

Roughly six hours after gunshots first rang out across Van Ness, police announced that the suspect was dead.

“We believe the suspect took his own life as MPD officers were entering or breaching the apartment where the suspect was located,” Contee said.

It wasn’t immediately clear what time officers approached the apartment.

The University of the District of Columbia issued an all-clear and lifted a shelter-in-place order at 9:13 p.m., and a short time later Contee said almost all Burke students had been reunited with their families.

Students were locked down for hours after a shooting in the Van Ness area of Northwest D.C. News4's Darcy Spencer reports on families reuniting.

'It Could've Been So Much Worse': The Shooting's Aftermath

On the warm Saturday that followed the shooting, there was a constant stream of foot traffic through the area, and many residents stopped to take a look where gunfire hit several businesses. 

Evidence technicians were back on the scene in front of Edmund Burke School, picking up keys and clothing belonging to one of the wounded victims.

Other investigators were still inside the 5th floor unit at the nearby apartment building where the shooter was found dead, and where police found the long guns he used in the attack that terrorized and paralyzed the neighborhood for hours. 

Some of those bullets flew a half-mile down Connecticut Avenue, blasting through a window at an eyeglass store, the slug still visible on the carpet. A few doors down, another shattered pane of glass at Byblos Deli, where the manager was sitting at a table when he was startled by a loud noise.

“It sounded like a light bulb broke, or somebody threw a rock at the window,” he said.

Police say the suspect in a shooting in Northwest D.C. was found dead in an apartment in the area. News4's Jackie Bensen reports.

When police cars began racing up the street, he realized it was something much worse. 

Inside the AVA apartment building, a young man sheltered in his bathroom away from the glass, anxiety growing as he watched news live streams on his phone. He asked News4 not to show his face. 

“And when I see that they are heavily surrounding my building, SWAT looking cars are literally parking in front of the entrance that I go through every day, that's when I'm like, 'Oh, he’s in here,'” he said. 

It wasn’t until after 6 p.m. that police evacuating the building reached his apartment. The witness recorded video as his group filed down the street. 

“The walk from my building to down on Connecticut Avenue was the longest minute of my life because I was like, they still obviously haven’t caught this guy,” he said. 

The apartment resident said he was grateful that the gunfire aimed at a school didn’t take a greater toll.

"I do definitely find peace in fact that it could have been so much worse and it wasn’t," he said.

Contact Us