Police Investigate Pellet Shootings of GDS Students, Neighborhood Car

A police car parked outside GDS during afternoon carpool. Photo by Olivia Brown.

Editors’ note (Sept. 29): GDS administrators commanded the editors of The Augur Bit to remove from this article the first names and last initials of the two victims of Friday’s pellet attack who spoke with the Bit. The third victim’s name had already been removed at his request.

Shortly after 1 p.m. on Friday, three GDS students were shot at with pellets in front of the GDS lower/middle school. One of the victims told the Bit in an interview that the pellets were shot out of a silver car by a young man in a ski mask. No one was seriously injured during the incident.

The three sophomores returned to the GDS building after the shooting occurred. A second victim told the Bit they didn’t take the incident very seriously at first. “We just walked back and talked to some people about it,” he said in an interview. “As we were talking to some people about it, we realized this was right in front of the LMS; this could have been serious.”

At that point, the second victim said, about 20 minutes after the shooting, the three students went to tell their grade dean, Julie Stein. (Nick Prout, the high school’s director of security, told the Bit the shooting took place between 1:15 and 1:30, the time frame included in a previous version of this article). Prout called the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), and the victims then met in the grade deans’ offices with administrators and police officers who had arrived at school.

According to an email sent to the high school community by Principal Yom Fox on Friday, the MPD issued a crime alert to inform D.C. residents of the incident. “Our security team responded quickly, assisting the students and calling the police, and our high school administration contacted the students’ families,” Fox wrote.

The first victim said he and his friends were walking in front of the triangular park between Wisconsin Avenue and the lower/middle school building, on their way back to GDS from lunch at Sol Mexican Grill, when the attack occurred. He said the three of them were dressed in “preppy outfits” as part of a psych for their upcoming cross country meet. (The prior version of this story quoted a student who had heard about the attack from one of the victims saying that they ran away; they did not.)

They were hit by the pellets on their legs, backs and faces, according to the second victim. The first said the masked shooter was sitting in the passenger seat of the car, which was waiting to turn right onto Wisconsin from Ellicott Street, and was accompanied by three to four other people.

“We passed the car, and as we kept walking we heard this really quick clicking sound, and we didn’t know what it was,” the first victim said. “As I turned around, I got hit in the face with one of the pellets.” The silver car, which he believes to be a Toyota Prius, left the scene southbound on Wisconsin Avenue.

Prout, who is a former police officer, said the incident was referred to the Second District Detective Unit, which covers the Northwest quadrant of D.C. “As of right now, we don’t have any leads; it’s an ongoing investigation,” Prout said on Friday.

Greg Wong and Anna Howe, the eleventh and twelfth grade deans, respectively, along with Fox and Stein, declined to comment to the Bit on the situation.

Blocks away, at the intersection of 43rd Street and Windom Place, the rear door window of AU Park resident Susanna Barnett’s Subaru Outback was shot at with a pellet gun on the same day. Barnett posted about the incident on the neighborhood communication platform Nextdoor. Barnett told two Bit reporters who visited her home that she discovered that the window was shot through at 3:30 p.m. on Friday; she called the police Saturday morning to report the incident after hearing from a friend about the shooting in front of GDS.

Barnett said she believes the same people who shot at the three GDS students broke her car window. “I pointed out to the police that we are not far from GDS and often a pass-through street,” she said. “The police officer said that he was going to share his information with the detective.”

Barnett added that her car was one of the only ones parked on the street because a pipeline was being put in the ground. Her car was shot less than a mile away from where the three sophomores were attacked.

A car window shattered by a pellet in AU Park. Photo courtesy of Susanna Barnett.

“I am concerned for the overall safety of people in the neighborhood and kids around the school,” Tonya Fulkerson, the mother of a GDS high school student, told the Bit when asked how the incident affected her perception of GDS students’ safety. Fulkerson said the school should tell students to pay attention to their surroundings, adding, “I think that there’s nothing else that can be done, unless you want to stop the kids from leaving campus for lunch.” But she pointed out that students would still walk off campus before and after school.

In an assembly earlier this month, Assistant Principal for School Life Quinn Killy told students that SchoolPass, an app that GDS introduced last year to keep track of when students are on and off campus, is in some measure a way for the school to justify its open-campus policy to accreditors.

Mark Blum, the father of two GDS high school students, said in an interview that he and his wife have “real confidence in the school administration working in cooperation with the D.C. police and GDS security to continue to assure the safety of our students.” 

Both victims interviewed said that they have not had any contact with police since Friday. “I never expected the police to solve anything,” the second said. 

This article was updated on Sept. 29, since its initial publication.

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