The new U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia is speaking out for the first time about the March 30 mass shooting on South Capitol Street, calling the drive-by that left four dead and five wounded “devastating.”
Ron Machen went to the scene that night after receiving a call from D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier. The new U.S. Attorney said Chief Lanier was not angry or emotional but wanted him there.
Chief Lanier said she knew within minutes of arriving on the scene that night exactly what happened. A man police wanted off the streets used a rifle for revenge. Lanier says she got on the phone and called Machen, who had been on the job for just about a month.
“That was a devastating time,” said Machen in an interview Friday. “I felt terrible because I understand the emotion of that moment and how tragic the loss is. I talked to her for a few minutes. I wanted to help and went out to the scene.”
Machen is no stranger to the streets. At one time, he prosecuted cases in the office he now heads.
"Whenever you have a loss of life, especially with young folks like this, you just feel terrible and my heartfelt sympathies and condolences go out to the victims and their families,” said Machen.
In the hours after the mass shooting, as the facts began trickling out, some community members very publicly and some police officers very privately, began pointing fingers.
They were saying the drive-by would not have happened had prosecutors just signed a warrant for the arrest of Orlando Carter. Investigators thought they had enough evidence to charge Carter with the murder of Jordan Howe, who was gunned down March 22 at Alabama Avenue in Southeast D.C. But the U.S. Attorneys office felt differently.
"I can't talk specifically about that case but we are always bound by our obligations to make sure there is probable cause before there is an arrest and it is always a balancing act,” said Machen.
Machen is originally from Michigan. He played football at Stanford University and graduated from Harvard Law School. No one recruited him to be U.S. Attorney. He said he wanted the job based on his experience as an Assistant U.S. Attorney.
"As I look back on my career, it was one of the most rewarding aspects of my career. The most rewarding quite frankly. The ability to have an impact on people's lives, each and every day, one family at a time. If you are prosecuting a case or one community at a time, it’s just one of the most gratifying experiences you can have,” Machen said.
Machen says he has a vision for the office which includes more community outreach.
Orlando Carter has now been charged with not only the drive-by which left four teenagers dead but he’s also facing charges in the murder of Jordan Howe. Prosecutors say his role in the mass shooting strengthened the case they had against him in the Howe killing.
In addition to his plans to get out more into the community, Machen says he will have his office refocus on cold cases. He also has a team of prosecutors reviewing dozens of criminal cases in which the testimony of discredited FBI evidence examiners has been called into question.
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