Additional police patrols. More security cameras. Prompt reporting of gunfire. Getting to know neighbors and working together to enhance safety.
Those were among the ideas suggested by residents this week during a special Dumfries Town Hall meeting called to discuss community safety and crime prevention in the wake of the Jan. 4 quintuple shooting that killed 3-year-old Dumfries girl and left four of her teenage relatives seriously wounded.
Dumfries Police Chief Vernon Galyen also gave an update on the four teens who were shot: All are improving, and at least one has been released from the hospital, Galyen said during the town hall meeting, which was held on Wednesday, Jan. 11.
The five victims, ranging in age from 3 to 17, were shot inside the townhome their grandmother rented in the South Cove area of Dumfries. The neighborhood is adjacent to Williamstown; both communities lie east of Richmond Highway and stretch between Williamstown and Graham Park roads.
The shooting happened at about 10:50 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 4 amid an argument reportedly between one of the victims, Iayana, 17, and her boyfriend. The two were arguing over an EBT food card, according to a family friend and reporting by the Washington Post.
Kenyatta Lee Oglesby, 20, of Washington, D.C., allegedly shot Iayana in the parking lot in front of the home and her three younger sisters and 17-year-old uncle inside.
The youngest sibling, Journee Carroll-Ward, 3, did not survive her gunshot wounds. The four wounded teens, Iayana, 17, Naveha, 16, and Danayja, 14, and their 17-year-old uncle, Maquel, suffered serious, life-threatening gunshot wounds and were taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital. They have undergone multiple surgeries to treat their injures. Most were shot more than once, a family friend said last week.
The four girls are among eight siblings who lost their mother, Portia Carroll, to diabetes last September. The wounded teens were not in school that morning either because they were attending classes online or were still enrolled at Spotsylvania County schools, where winter break did not end until the following day, Thursday, Jan. 5. The older children were still transitioning to living with their grandmother in Dumfries, according to the family friend.
A GoFundMe set up for the family has so far garnered more than 500 donations totaling more than $28,000 as of Friday, Jan. 13.
Police recovered two handguns from the family’s townhome. Oglesby was wanted in Washington, D.C. on a prior weapons charge to which he had already pleaded guilty. He also faced previous weapons charges in North Carolina, according to court records.
During the town hall meeting, however, neither Dumfries officials nor residents explicitly mentioned poverty or easy access to guns as contributing factors to the shooting.
Galyen praised the quick action of two Dumfries police officers who arrived within two minutes after the 911 call. The first officer provided immediate first aid to 17-year-old Iayana while a second officer, who arrived two minutes later, rushed inside to find the other wounded kids.
“The reason we only have … one deceased victim is because of their care,” Galyen said of the officers.
Galyen said he was disappointed, however, that police received only one 911 call reporting the incident. But he said that’s not uncommon.
“There were numerous shots fired, and it was 10:50 in the morning. A lot of people were out. People just don’t call the police. People think that somebody else is going to call the police,” he said. “We can never have too many police calls. If you see something, say something. The sooner you do it, the better it is for us.”
Galyen was joined at the town hall by Dumfries Mayor Derrick Wood, Prince William County Supervisor Andrea Bailey, D-Potomac, several Dumfries town councilmembers and a community educator from Action in Community Through Service who works with victims of domestic violence.
Fields: ‘Sometimes being nosy solves crimes’
Galyen said violent crime is on the rise both regionally and nationally, which he blamed on an ongoing shortage of police officers as well as some repeat offenders being released back into communities. The latter, he said, is the result of a combination of factors, including prosecution policies as well as “uncooperative victims, uncooperative witnesses and mistakes made by law enforcement that hinder prosecution.”
Wood and other councilmembers said the goal of the town hall meeting was to discuss steps residents could take steps to improve safety and deter crime. Councilman Brian Fields, a former Dumfries police officer, said neighbors shouldn’t be afraid to “be nosy” and to get to know each other and check on each other in times of distress.
“Sometimes, nosy solves crimes. In today’s times, it’s OK to be nosy. Because if we are nosy, we’re going to solve a lot of these things,” Fields said.
Councilman Tyrone Brown said domestic violence, in particular, seems to be at the root of much of Dumfries’ violent crime. The police department, he said, responds to at least one domestic violence call a month from the Williamstown and South Cove areas.
“The Town of Dumfries, for the last four or five years, has been ranked among the top 10 safest communities in the state,” said Wood. “So we don’t have a lot of violent crimes, burglaries, car jackings … What you have seen is a few types of one-offs, some domestic situations.”
Dumfries had at least four shootings in 2022, two of which were fatal. On Nov. 12, a 44-year-old man was gunned down and killed in Williamstown while driving his car down a side street. In May, a 52-year-old man died after he was found suffering from gunshot wounds in a parking lot off Old Triangle Road.
About 20 people attended the town hall, including the Williamstown HOA President Carrie Smith and Vice President Angelique Combs. Both said they knew their assigned police officer well and frequently saw her in their community.
Still, Combs suggested that the town police use the community’s pool house as a regular stopping place and said she is investigating grants to fund a security camera system for the neighborhood. Now, police rely on individual residents’ “Ring” cameras and similar devices to gather evidence when crimes occur.
In an interview after the meeting, Combs said there should be more recreational and afterschool programming available for young people in Dumfries. She noted that she works for the afterschool child-care program in Fairfax County, which is available to families both during the school year and in the summer on a sliding-scale fee schedule. Prince William County schools offer afterschool care but not in the summer and not on a sliding-fee scale based on income.
Combs said her own daughter, who is now in college, did not feel safe when she was a teen either being outside by herself in Williamstown or walking to the nearby retail strip mall.
Dumfries Town Councilman Shaun Peet noted during the meeting that the town had purchased the former fire and rescue squad building where the meeting was held about a year ago in hopes of offering more programs for local youth. The building is within walking distance to Williamstown. Prince William County Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism has plans to begin offering some youth programming in the building later this spring.
“I’m big on the children, because I believe that everything starts with the children,” Peet said. “Give them a direction to go, and they’ll go somewhere. If you don’t give them a direction to go to, they’ll find something to do and nine times out of 10 times it’s always bad.”
Neighbors were first to respond
Despite all the talk at the town hall about neighbors' responsibilities to deter and report crimes, it was South Cove residents who came to the family’s aid in the immediate aftermath of the Jan. 4 shooting. They included Shahrooz Khan, 29, who grew up in the neighborhood, attended Forest Park High School and George Mason University and still lives with his mom. He said he was working from home when he heard the gunshots.
“We heard the gunshots, and we confirmed to each other: ‘Did you hear that?’ And [my mom] was like, ‘Yeah, was it gunshots?’ And I said, ‘I think so,’” Khan said in a Jan. 7 interview outside his South Cove home.
Khan said he looked out the window and saw a girl crouching down between the cars. “I thought she heard it, too, and was just hiding,” he said of Iayana, whom he said he did not know by name. Her family had moved in only a few months ago, he said.
Khan said he immediately called 911 and then thought for a moment about his own safety before rushing outside.
“I looked out and was like, ‘Is the guy still here?’” he continued. “Then I was like, screw it. And then other neighbors started coming. When we got there, the first [police] officer came and tried to help her out, to stop the bleeding,” he said.
Khan said it appeared that Iayana was shot at least twice, once in the leg and once in the back.
“She just kept saying she didn’t want to die and stuff. And we were saying, ‘You’re not going to die. Don’t worry.’ … That’s when she said the shooter was her boyfriend.”
Another neighbor told police he saw a young man running between the homes and toward Richmond Highway, Khan said. “And that’s when [the police] caught him on U.S. 1. He was just walking around on Route 1.”
When asked whether he and his family are concerned about crime, Khan said he was once robbed outside his home and doesn’t feel completely safe in South Cove, especially at night. Still, he said the shooting, which occurred as a result of an argument, was a tragedy “that could have happened anywhere.”
“A rich neighborhood, a poor neighborhood, it doesn’t really matter,” he said.
But he noted that in response to other recent incidents of gun violence, residents “are talking more, as a community, about what can be done about it.” The South Cove HOA recently proposed hiring private security guards, which Khan said he supports.
Khan said he was still trying to process the shooting and the loss of the young child who lived only a few doors down.
“It’s just … the realization that I’m 29, and she didn’t get to see her fourth birthday,” Khan said of his young neighbor. “She didn’t get to go to school or experience life in any real way. So it’s just sad.”
Reach Jill Palermo at firstname.lastname@example.org