At least 9 wards of the city now charged with murder

Local,Bill Myers

D.C.'s embattled juvenile justice agency is facing a new round of pointed questions after one of its wards was accused of murder and another teen was an apparent victim of murder.

Last week, authorities charged 16-year-old Javon Hale with murder in the May 28 shooting death of day laborer Manuel Sanchez. Hale had been committed to the custody of the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services and was out from a private group home on a weekend pass, a source with knowledge of his background told The Washington Examiner.

Hale is at least the ninth juvenile ward to have been charged with murder since the beginning of the year. His juvenile history was first reported by Washington Post columnist Colbert King.

DYRS's dead:

»  Joel Watkins, 15, shot and killed in February
»  DeVaughn Boyd, 18, shot and killed in a March rampage on South Capitol Street
  Durand Lucas, 17, shot and killed over the weekend

And its accused:

»  Reginald Rogers, 18, charged with January shooting death of Calvin Woodland
»  Dominick Payne, 16, charged with February beating death of Carlos Alexander
  Sanquan Carter, 19, charged with shooting in killing Jordan Howe in a dispute over costume jewelry on March 22
  Curtis Faison, 19, charged with shooting Melvin White to death on April 10
»  Alante Saunders, Sharif "Reef" Lancaster, Deontra Gray, all 18, and Joel Johnson, 19, all accused of April 14 shooting death and robbery of principal Brian Betts
  Javon Hale, 16, charged with May 28 shooting death of Manuel Sanchez

Another city ward, 17-year-old Durand Lucas, was killed Saturday, shot down in the wee hours in Anacostia. He is at least the third juvenile offender to have been killed this year while in city custody.

"We all take a deep breath when we read or see news reports of crime involving youth in the metro area while wondering whether they under the care and custody of DYRS," said John Walker, whose union represents juvenile agency case workers. "A great majority of the time, they are." Agency spokesman Reggie Sanders declined comment for this story.

Under Mayor Adrian Fenty, the city has committed itself to a "community-based" approach to dealing with juvenile offenders. The idea is to get kids out of harsh lock-ups and into safe centers close to family and support so that they can change their ways.

After three teens who were in youth agency custody were accused of murdering D.C. principal Brian Betts, Attorney General Peter Nickles promised to review the agency and find out what went wrong. He said Monday he expected to wrap up his investigation soon but said the community-based approach is still working.

"I don't think it has failed," Nickles said.

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