News & Politics

Senselessness and Stupidity on U Street

Two pointless deaths in two weeks on the U Street corridor

Updated: It looks as if the charges against the five DC9 employees arrested in this incident may change at arraignment, and the medical examiner's verdict is uncertain. Either way, it doesn't change the fact that there's no way to guard against people getting drunk and doing stupid and dangerous things, and there's no way to entirely prevent people from overreacting physically when they feel themselves, their business, or people they're close to are threatened.

We know two things about what happened at U Street's DC9 last night. A man smashed the club window. And later, he was pronounced dead at a local hospital. Everything in between is up for debate. City police say the man was beaten to death and have arrested five employees, including owner Bill Spieler, charging them with second-degree murder. DC9 manager K.T. Robeson told no beating took place and the man must have died of a preexisting condition. But whatever took place, this is the second death in the neighborhood in just two weeks to illustrate the tragic power of stupidity and anger.

Jamal Coates died on September 28 after Ashley McRae's funeral at Walker Memorial Baptist Church at 13th and U Streets, Northwest ended in gunshots and a car crash. Jason Cherkis wrote at the time that the crime turned "U Street from a hip lunch destination to a crime corridor."

But no amount of gentrification can stop people from thinking it might be a good idea to continue a feud at a funeral, and from bringing guns with them. Having a snazzy new roof deck doesn't mean DC9 is never going to have to deal with drunk and belligerent patrons. There's no protection from the kind of idiocy that leads someone to toss a couple of bricks through a window (according to, another patron was arrested earlier in the evening at DC9 after punching out a window)—nothing justifies a beating if that's in fact what happened, but flying bricks and glass are a serious danger. And there's no way in the world to make sure everyone behaves rationally and appropriately at all times, especially when they feel threatened.

In other words, I don't think these two tragedies say anything in particular about U Street. If the incidents were the result of inadequate policing, or rising crime there might be some policy change to hope for, or to demand. Instead, we're left pondering human impulsiveness, and for that, there's no quick or clear fix.

Subscribe to Washingtonian
Follow Washingtonian on Twitter

More>> Capital Comment Blog | News & Politics | Party Photos