City Desk

Jim Graham Talks About Young Staffer Turned Alleged Columbia Heights Shooter

Yesterday evening, WJLA broke the story that the alleged Columbia Heights shooter was an intern working in Councilmember Jim Graham's office. Graham had driven the suspect, Devyn Black, 19, to the Third District police station. Black turned himself in without incident.

At some point on Friday, Graham had heard from media sources that Black had been mentioned as a suspect. Graham tells City Desk that he tried to verify this with D.C. Police officials.

"I said 'hey is there any truth to this?' I was assured that there wasn't," Graham says. "He may have been somebody who's name was mentioned, but that was just all talk. Just all talk."

But Graham did confront Black. He called him into his office and questioned him about the shooting incident in which two adults were shot in the leg outside the Columbia Heights metro stop Thursday afternoon. In the shootings immediate aftermath, Graham had been on the scene talking to residents and police. That day Black attended the summer jobs program orientation at the convention center. Graham had told reporters about the incident at the convention center that involved police seizing the revolver and brass knuckles.

Graham says he asked Black about the shooting and whether he was involved. "I had previously asked him if he had done it," he says. "He had an alibi....I didn't know whether to believe him or not believe him. I felt that he knew more about it than what he was saying. He might have been on the scene."

Graham says that a staffer in his office had known Black since he was a child. Black, who has a young boy of his own, started intern work this past Monday—a week early. He worked Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday, he was out. On Thursday, Black attended the orientation. He worked a full shift on Friday.

"I had various conversations with him," Graham says. "I thought he was very intelligent, thoughtful."

After yesterday's press conference on gang violence held in front of the Columbia Heights metro, Graham found out that Black had emerged as the main police suspect. Assistant Chief Alfred Durham called him to break the news.

"Was I upset yesterday that somebody left my office and shot two people? Yeah...That's pretty upsetting," Graham says.

Black had already left Graham's office for the day. Graham says he called the young intern's cellphone. He encouraged him to turn himself in. Black accepted Graham's offer to drive him to the Third District.

Black did not apologize. "He was obviously very upset," Graham says.

"The car ride was largely in silence," Graham says. "[Black] said he knew exactly what to do. The conversation was all about you are definitely doing the right thing. I tried to be sensitive. I don't remember any specific conversation."

Graham walked Black inside the Third District. Detectives were waiting. They padded down Black and then took him away. Graham was then interviewed by officers for a half hour.

"He's entitled to his day in court," Graham says of his former employee. "You can't talk as if he's been convicted. He hasn't been convicted. He's been charged with a crime. I'm not defending him. I'm just saying that when I spoke to him—I wasn't convinced that he was guilty."

Graham isn't sure if he wouldn't rehire Black. "I haven't thought of it yet," he says. "I'm still dealing with the other issues. I have to be ready to give people an opportunity. I've created 70 permanent jobs in DPW for returning ex-offendes and I have done so because people need second and third and sometimes many chances."

Graham continues: "What are we going to do? These people are going to be abandoned? I'm very very sorry that violence came out of my office...I think I did the right thing by going to get him. I think I did all the right things. We don't do background checks on summer interns even if we did the whole point of the program is to give people opportunities. I've hired gang members before....And we've had good experiences to tell you the truth."

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  • Lin

    Do summer interns get ID's that allow them to pass the metal detectors in the Wilson building? If so did this young man have the gun in a government building? I think so,....

  • downtown rez

    Good story, Jason.

  • Bill

    Lin, to answer your question. No, interns are not issued IDs that would allow them to bypass security screenings. Only full-time employees of the Council or the Executive Office of the Mayor are issued IDs from DC Protective Services. However, it is scary to think that his young man had a firearm in the Convention Center and on the Metro. It also raises further questions regarding the need for security plans for SYEP job sites.

  • Angry Al Gonzales

    Exactly, Bill - the key problem here was poor police work at the convention center. First, the kids apparently were not screened with a metal detector. Second, after the first fight broke out, & a gun & brass knuckles seized, no one was arrested. Everyone, even the lazy, ignorant cops, had to know the fight was going to resurface momentarily. Not arresting anyone only encouraged the thugs to keep the beef going.
    The poor performance by MPD is central to this whole mess. & again, Bill, you're right about future jobs program meetings - has MPD learned anything from this debacle?

  • Steve O.

    This city is beyond help. This joke of a police force really needs to be disbanded and martial law declared. And the feral tyrones that live here need to be thrown out en masse, their housing projects torn down immediately and their welfare benefits cut off.

  • Paul

    ...true Steve O. The politicians in this town are jokes and corrupt… the city council, mayor and AG as well as their respective gang members. A serious outside federal investigation of all these guys is well overdue.

  • Truth Hurts

    Bill and Angry Al: You nailed the key points on this one. Thirty minutes ago, I got off of metro, right behind 4 teenage knuckleheads. They were out of control: scared several riders just for laughs, jumped the turnstile, crept up on a pedestrian as if they intended to mug him, and frightened my wife/daughter who were waiting to pick me up. Nobody, including me, said a word. Were they armed? Who knows. But with no security/law enforcement personnel in sight from DC to Md, it's no surprise that shit happens and people get hurt.

  • Ben Franklin

    People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both.

  • Sally

    It would have made for quite the p.r. disaster had the summer youth participants been forced to go through metal detectors at the Convention Center. How about we just give them some money and ask them to go somewhere else for the summer?

  • greg


    We miss you down at the Union Station bathrooms.

  • The Old Grammarian

    ..."They padded down Black and then took him away."

    Looks like someone on the staff is over-reliant on Spell Checker. How about "patted down" instead of "padded down"? The politicians and police in DC are amateur incompetants. Journalist are supposed to be professionals. Professional writers should know how to spell.

  • Key Grammarian Too

    It's incompetent - with an e at the end, not an "a."

    We criticizers should know how to spell, too.

  • Q

    Give Graham some credit...he at least had the rapport with the intern to talk to him and bring him into custody. I honestly don't see Catania, Evans, or Fenty doing that, and they support the Bill. Yes, it was dangerous, but his action shows that even at risk of his own safety, he believes (at least this time) in direct interaction with the youth. Outside of Barry, Thomas, and Kwame Brown, much of the elected politicians give is LIP SERVICE.

    In terms of Graham's last statement about hiring "gang menbers" that kinda makes his argument about the injunctions weaker. The truth of matter is, there are many jobs in the Federal Government centering around Security (Baggage Handlers, etc.). However, not being able to pass a background check or get a clearance eliminates many opportunities. The youth don't realize that the petty-ante-quick-money things they do will ultimately affect their future. That message needs to be reinforced in the schools, SYEP, etc. Kudos to Graham for at least giving SOME kids a second chance.

  • Cherkis


    I'm sure you do, you pickle puffer you.

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