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Residents In Columbia Heights Say Building Plagued By Gangs

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D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty and Police Chief Cathy Lanier announcing the arrest of a suspect in the shooting of 9-year-old Oscar Fuentes.
Patrick Madden/WAMU 88.5 NEWS
D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty and Police Chief Cathy Lanier announcing the arrest of a suspect in the shooting of 9-year-old Oscar Fuentes.

By Patrick Madden

Police in D.C. say the killing of nine-year-old Oscar Fuentes was not gang related. But Police Chief Cathy Lanier says the suspect had ties to MS-13. Residents in the building where the boy was killed say they are terrified by the gangs.

Outside the building where Oscar Fuentes once lived, candles burn from a late-night vigil. City workers are throwing a quick coat of whitewash over the front of the building. They've painted over about two dozen gang graffiti signs. Residents watch from the front steps. Mariah Arias is there with her young daughter. She says the graffiti will be back up in a week.

The police have painted the killing as a robbery attempt gone bad. The mayor blasted the landlord for not replacing the broken front door. But residents at 1433 Columbia Road say the building needs more than a face-lift. They say they've complained to police for years about the gangs. But Chief Lanier says until a gang member commits an actual crime, there is little police can do to get them out of the neighborhood.

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