D.C.'s Attorney General announced Thursday three lawsuits against property owners and managers his office says are endangering residents' health and safety -- including the owners of a shopping center where a teen was shot and killed in May.
On May 26, 15-year-old Mauri'ce Scott was killed and three others, including a young girl, were shot when gunmen opened fire outside the shopping center at 3505-3511 Wheeler Road.
The shopping center houses a liquor store, convenience store and several other businesses is near several schools and learning centers and has been plagued by gun violence and drug-related crime, according to the Attorney General's office.
The OAG says D.C. police have responded to more than 191 calls for service, 45 of them related to drug and firearm activity, so far this year.
Owners allegedly failed to take action after a warning was issued in April for them to make security improvements including repairing broken exterior lights, maintaining security cameras and hiring security staff.
“Building owners who neglect their properties blight our neighborhoods and put the health and safety of District residents at risk,” Racine said in a release. “Today’s actions are a response to repeated complaints from fearful community members and concerned tenants who continue to experience poor living conditions, drug activity and gun violence in their communities. We are taking action to hold these property owners and managers accountable for shirking their responsibilities and endangering our residents.”
Racine's office is seeking a court order to compel the shopping center owners, Hong Keun Kim, Chung Ja Kim, Won Kyong Hwang and SH Property Management, Inc., to implement "basic security measures" and pay civil penalties.
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Ward 8 ANC Commissioner Paul Trantham said he strongly supports the lawsuit against the shopping center owners.
"They've had so much crime in that area, homicides, and it seems like the owners of that of that property are enabling some of the individuals that linger on their property or, rather, loiter on their property," Trantham said.
"There is no way in my mind and in my opinion that the owner of that business could could not have known that that type of activity has been going on in that shopping center," said Philip Pannell, the head of the Anacostia Coordinating Council.
A Shell gas station at 4700 South Capitol St. SE in Washington Highlands is the subject of a second lawsuit. The OAG says police have responded to hundreds of calls for disorderly conduct and mayhem, drug complaints and shootings at the gas station.
The lawsuit says Capital Petroleum Group, LLC, DAG Realty, LLC and Eyob Mamo must install and maintain security cameras, maintain adequate lighting and work to limit trespassing and loitering on the property.
Racine also filed suit against Tavana Corporation and Mehrdad Valibeigi, the owner and manager of Westwood Apartments in Ward 5’s Ivy City neighborhood.
According to the complaint, Valibeigi collected rent but failed to maintain the buildings or make necessary repairs. The OAG says residents have been exposed to dangerous and unsanitary conditions, including severe infestations of mice, roaches and bed bugs, lack of working heat, electrical problems, leaking and collapsing ceilings, mold and a lack of fire safety systems, which violate the District’s housing and fire codes.
OAG is asking the court to appoint a receiver to ensure all necessary repairs are made at the building. Racine's office is also seeking relief for harmed tenants for rent that was collected while the buildings were in violation of the District’s laws and regulations and civil penalties.