Shocking day of gun violence in Washington DC sees a toddler shot dead and a teenager grazed by bullet at school

Police in Washington DC say a 17-year-old girl was ‘grazed’ by a bullet after being caught in the crossfire of a shooting near a high school on Friday morning (7News)
Police in Washington DC say a 17-year-old girl was ‘grazed’ by a bullet after being caught in the crossfire of a shooting near a high school on Friday morning (7News)

A grim message was sent from the nation’s capital this week after two children were either injured or killed by stray bullets: no one is safe from gun violence.

Nowhere is safe, either.

A toddler was in a car when she was hit by a bullet, and just hours earlier a teenager was in a high school classroom when she was struck.

Before Friday, 10 children had been shot in the city, police data revealed. Now, at least 12 have been struck — six fatally.

Three-year-old Ty’ah Settles became Washington DC’s youngest homicide victim of the year on Friday.

The toddler was riding in an SUV around 9pm when she was struck, caught in an “exchange of gunfire” on Hartford Street SE in the Garfield Heights neighborhood, police said.

She was airlifted to a hospital, where she was later pronounced dead.

“She didn’t deserve this,” Bernard Brown, Settles’ godfather, told WUSA9. “I would rather it be me than her.”

“She brightened a room,” Darnisha Pelzer, Settles’ mother, told the Washington Post. “Everyone loved her.”

The little girl may not have been the “intended target,” as police said, but Settles’ death underscores the gravity of the gun violence epidemic. And the senselessness of it.

“Anytime a baby gets shot, man, somebody needs to be brought to justice,” DC council member Trayon White Sr told the Washington Post.

A police official echoed this sentiment. “This is an absolute tragedy. It’s unacceptable. A three-year-old little girl lost her life today,” Metropolitan Police Department Commander LaShay Makal said at a press conference on Friday.

So far in 2024, 58 people have died by homicide in DC.

The homicide rate in the city is down by 25 per cent year, compared to the same time period in 2023, which was the deadliest year in two decades, data shows. Over 90 per cent of the killings in 2023 were by gunfire, the Post reported.

Last year, 106 young people under 18 were shot — 16 were shot fatally — the Washington Post reported, by bullets.

The Independent has reached out to the mayor’s office for comment.

Still, Settles’ killing serves as a reminder that even if the homicide rate is down, the gun violence epidemic is far from over.

Settles was not the only child struck by a bullet on Friday in DC.

Separately, about 12 hours before Settles was fatally shot, just before 10am on May 3, loud noises that sounded like “machine gun fire” were heard near Dunbar High School, according to an affidavit filed in DC Superior Court.

One 17-year-old girl was standing in the middle of her classroom when all of a sudden, she felt pain in her head, the affidavit says.

Blood poured from her head. She was struck on the right side of her forehead, the filing states.

Police said the student was “grazed” with a stray bullet from a gunfire exchange happening outside of the high school — but the graze was “deep enough that the skull was visible,” according to the affidavit.

The girl was taken to the hospital and is expected to make a full recovery, police said.

The bullet that grazed the student was just one of six that hit the N Street side of the high school.

Two teens — a 17-year-old and an 18-year-old — have since been charged in connection to the incident, facing counts of assault with a dangerous weapon, carrying a pistol without a license and endangerment with a firearm.

“It’s unconscionable to think about today’s incident at Dunbar,” DC Council member Kenyan McDuffie said in the wake of the incident. “While I’m glad the outcome wasn’t worse, this isn’t the reality that our young people/students deserve.”

Residents near Dunbar High School in northeast DC seemed fed up with gun violence.

One neighbor, who served in Afghanistan, told Fox News that rapid succession of gunfire sounded similar to automatic fire.

“We’ve heard this many times in this area... this is not OK.”

Another neighbor told WTOP, “When it’s right in front of your house, it really cuts to the core of what it feels to be safe in your house. And with that amount of lead flying through the air. I don’t think anyone on this block will feel safe inside their houses ever again.”

The investigation into the two shootings are still ongoing.