Jackie Bensen

‘Just Hold On': Woman Describes Trying to Save DC Activist Shot After Anti-Violence Meeting

"I cope with the fact that at least I tried"

A woman who performed CPR on a man who was fatally shot after leaving an anti-violence meeting in Southeast D.C. Friday described his final moments and said she is grateful that she tried to save him.

The victim, 40-year-old Clarence Venable of Southeast D.C., attended a Cure the Streets meeting. The group calls themselves violence interrupters. They go into neighborhoods experiencing violence and try to mediate between opposing groups.

Venable was shot about 2 p.m. in the 3200 block of Dubois Place SE, police said.

Khristal Barber said she called 911 when she realized someone was shot down the street from her home.

"Everybody on the block was on the phone with dispatch and I don't know what they were told, but I was told that if I felt comfortable, to start chest compressions," she said.

So, she did.

Barber took CPR classes as a teenager, but she never had to put those skills to use until that moment.

"I tried to give it everything," she said.

Barber says she did CPR on Venable for about four or five minutes before an ambulance arrived.

"He was still breathing. He was still looking around ... He would move his hand a little," she said. "I told him, 'You're going to be OK. Just hold on. They're coming. They're coming. If you can hear me blink twice.' And he blinked twice."

Medics arrived and took Venable to a hospital, where he died.

"When I found out, it was saddening and hurtful because it seems like to me I didn't do enough, but I cope with the fact that at least I tried," she said.

Police do not have a motive or lookout information.

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