“Shotgun Killer” Requests Release for Family Visit

A serial killer who terrorized northwest Washington two decades ago is asking for a temporary release from confinement to spend a day with his father.

In the winter and spring of 1993, James E. Swann Jr. killed four people and injured five others, maiming three, in shotgun attacks he carried out in the Mount Pleasant and Columbia Heights neighborhoods. Swann used a 20-gauge shotgun for 14 separate attacks, in which he slowly approached victims and then blasted them at close range.

When captured, Swann said that he was goaded to commit the killings by "evil spirits" in retaliation for the shooting of Malcolm X.

In his videotaped confession, Swann said, "The spirits threatened me and my family so that I would do what the spirits told me to do."

In 1994, a D.C. Supreme Court judge found Swann not guilty of the 32 weapons and homicide charges brought against him, by reason of insanity. Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said in her decision that the defendant "lacked the capacity to ascertain the correctness of his actions for the most part, even though he did take precautions to conceal his identity and elude capture by authorities."

The court ordered Swann confined indefinitely to the psychiatric treatment facility at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Southeast D.C.

Now, James Swann Sr., the patient's father, would like to spend 12 hours with his son so they can go fishing or bowling or out to eat like they used to. James Jr. has submitted a request to be temporarily released from St. Elizabeth's.

The government wants to block the release.

According to the Washington Examiner, D.C. prosecutors have filed a brief in opposition to Swann's release. In court documents, prosecutors claim Swann remains a highly dangerous person who "derives his self-esteem from the grandiose image of himself as a famous killer and a tough guy." He also showed a lack of remorse and empathy for the victims of the shootings.

In court Tuesday, a defense psychologist testified that Swann Jr. is not a threat and that his psychosis is under control, NBC Washington's Pat Collins reported. Swann Sr. testified that he watch his son for 12 hours.

"I supervised him most of his life, I can't see how it'd be any different now," he said.

He also testified that he used to discipline his son by beating the soles of his feet enough so that it hurt but not enough to leave any marks.

The government is expected to produce several psychologists as witnesses, as well as a victim impact statement.

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