A man and a woman were fatally shot and three others were wounded Wednesday afternoon when a dispute involving two groups of people erupted in gunfire in the Congress Heights neighborhood of Southeast Washington, according to D.C. police.

The dispute and shooting occurred shortly after 1 p.m. at an apartment complex near Congress and Savannah streets SE, near the Congress Heights Metro station. No arrests had been made by Wednesday evening, and police said they were searching for at least one, and possibly more, shooters.

Acting D.C. police chief Robert J. Contee III said that two people died at a hospital and that three others, two women and a man, were being treated for injuries that did not appear life-threatening. Police did not release the names of those who were killed.

Contee told reporters that the shootings occurred during a dispute between people known to one another but did not elaborate. Authorities concentrated their investigation on a parking lot and a first-floor residence in a group of three-story brick apartment buildings.


Police examine a staircase at the scene of the Congress Heights shooting in D.C. A man and a woman were killed.

At one point, officers searched one apartment, looking for other possible victims. Contee said they did not find anyone injured but did recover evidence related to the case.

Police said it appears one person opened fire from inside an apartment, and investigators were trying to determine whether someone outside also fired. Authorities cautioned that detectives were early in their investigation and that scenarios could shift.

Police said four victims were found in the parking lot and the fifth got to a hospital independently.

A detective stands in the doorway of an apartment unit that was searched at the scene of the Congress Heights shooting in D.C. In addition to the two people killed, several others were wounded.

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) visited the scene and urged residents to come forward with information about the people involved, and to help get “guns and people willing to use guns off the streets just as soon as possible.”

Police said there were many surveillance cameras in the area.


Two hours after the shooting, the block where it occurred was damp and quiet. A few residents stood on a street corner with umbrellas, and one neighbor peeked out of his doorway to see police officers and yellow caution tape overtake his street. None would speak with a reporter.

D.C. Council member Trayon White Sr. (D-Ward 8), who said he knew most of the victims and had spoken to their families, paced along Congress Street. A playground across the street was empty.


White said the shootings were most likely “over nothing” and that the violence “hurts my heart.” He added, “I think, as a community, we have to do better.”

In January, White demanded that the mayor declare a state of emergency to address the violence and asked that the District bring together all agency heads for a “call to action.” Nearly one-third of the District’s 198 homicides in 2020 occurred in Ward 8, and killings in that ward are up again this year. Shootings last year rose 33 percent across the District.

Later in January, the mayor hired the city’s first director of gun violence prevention, declaring the mayhem caused by firearms a public health crisis.

Officials said the $15 million prevention program will aim to attack the root causes of gun violence, stepping up the use of violence interrupters and focusing resources on volatile neighborhoods to try to eliminate factors that contribute to violence.The program is a “whole-government” approach to combating gun violence. An emergency operations center will be staffed by officials with expertise in areas including education, job training and mental health.

Officials say 41 percent of gun-related crimes occur on just 2 percent, or 151, blocks of the District. Authorities confirmed that Wednesday’s shooting was on one of those blocks, singled out as a “building block” for close attention and services.

Contee, who earlier Wednesday passed a hurdle to becoming the next permanent chief when the D.C. Council’s public safety committee signaled its approval, said that addressing the “gun violence problem in the community” requires residents’ help.

“Right now is one of the times when I really need community to come forward,” he said, adding “I certainly extend my condolences to the families, but these are senseless murders that have occurred in our city that didn’t need to happen.Wednesday’s shooting comes about four weeks after a man opened fire inside a 7-Eleven in the Bellevue neighborhood of Southwest Washington, injuring five people.

Last year, at least 20 people were shot as hundreds attended a cookout in the Greenway neighborhood of Southeast Washington. A teenager was killed and an off-duty police officer critically injured.



Michael Brice-Saddler contributed to this report.