Damon Sams Pleads “Not Guilty” in Death of Ashley McRae

A Southeast D.C. man accused of killing Columbia Heights 21-year-old Ashley McRae has been indicted by a grand jury on second degree murder charges.

McRae was found in the backseat of a car in Southeast D.C. with a gunshot wound to her head early in the morning of Sept. 18. According to press reports and charging documents against Damon Sams, McRae and Sams had been out at a nightclub Friday night and got in an argument while riding in the car to a house party.

According to the charging documents, Sams admitted in an videotaped interview with police that he had shot McRae in the head with a .40 caliber semiautomatic pistol, but said the gun’s firing was accidental.

Shortly before shooting [McRae], [Sams] stated that he fired his pistol once up into the air and then was putting his weapon away when it “accidentally” went off and struck [McRae] in the head.

Damon Sams appeared in court Thursday to answer to the charge of second degree murder, as well as charges of gun possession and that the offenses were committed while he was on release for another case.

Sams plead “not guilty” on all counts. A jury trial is expected to be held in June.

McRae’s shooting death escalated gang tensions in the community
Jamal Coates, a 21-year-old D.C. man, was killed outside of McRae’s funeral on Sept. 28. McRae’s funeral was described as “tense;” the funeral “brought out a lot of crew members from nearby communities,” TBD reported.

Tensions among the attendees started heating up, and Coates decided to do something about it. According to longtime Ward 1 activist Bryan Weaver, he asked people to take it easy, “to knock it off.”

The appeal didn’t work. The commotion merely intensified, changing U Street from a hip lunch destination to a crime corridor. In fast succession, the gang hostilities produced a shootout and a Hollywood-caliber car accident. They also claimed the life of the 21-year-old Coates.

Brandon Miller has been charged with first-degree murder in Coates’ death. Miller is due in court Jan. 14, 2011 at 9:30 a.m. for a preliminary hearing.

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