Donte Manning's Death Remains a Mystery

Special to Informer | 5/3/2012, 11:21 a.m.

Donte Manning's Death Remains a Mystery

By John Muller

Special to WI

For 45 days, tens of thousands of demonstrators in the U.S. and abroad marched to protest the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Trayvon, who was unarmed and returning from a nearby convenience store in Sanford, Fla., was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, 28.

The protests continued until Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder by a special prosecutor in April.

However, closer to home, there is still no resolution in the District of Columbia where a young boy was shot and killed by an unknown assailant in one of the highest profile cases of former Police Chief Charles Ramsey's tenure.

More than seven years has passed since the shooting and subsequent death of 9-year-old Donte Manning but the Metropolitan Police Department is still seeking information that will lead to an arrest in the case.

Although Donte's memory may have faded from the public consciousness, it still looms large to police and local writer Rose Marie Berger, 48, who authored the book, "Who Killed Donte Manning?" two years ago.

"Donte still haunts me," said Berger of Columbia Heights in Northwest Washington. "Not as a ghost, but as an angel of conscience. His young life and his murder pricks our conscience as a city just like the murder of Trayvon Martin in Florida has turned a mirror to the violence at the soul of our nation."

"The fact that his killer remains free means two things: the first is that there is a young man out there who lives with the murder of a child on his conscience, and he has not made amends to Donte's family or to society for his actions. The second is that violence is so endemic that police are not able or not willing in some cases to pursue justice," Berger said.

Nowadays, the sidewalk and street in front of the historic Warner Apartments in the 2600 block of 13th Street NW - with only two remaining tenants - are quiet, dead quiet unlike the warm spring night of Thursday, March 24, 2005.

On that fateful night, a dozen children played out front, scampering back and forth as they chased each other. They were carefree. Their parents let them toss the football longer than usual because schools were closed the next day. Earlier that day, narcotics officers raided the unit of a suspected drug dealer, and arrested three individuals.

At 9:46 p.m., an unidentified individual appeared on the corner of 13th & Euclid Streets, pulled out a handgun and fired a volley of a half dozen gunshots up the block into the group of children.

Donte, a third- grade student at nearby Meyer Elementary School, was struck in the face. The stray bullet lodged in the back of his skull. He was the only youngster pierced by a bullet. The shooter vanished.

On April 26, Donte died at Children's National Medical Center in Northwest. His funeral at Shiloh Baptist Church drew nearly 500 mourners, many of them young children. Then-Mayor Anthony Williams said, like the community, he was "mystified in trying to understand how we can lose a young life like this."