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Residents say construction site in neighborhood where DNC staffer killed causes problems

July 12, 2016

WASHINGTON — Bouquets of flowers sit on a sidewalk, near the intersection of Flagler Place and W Street, NW.

It's the spot where Seth Rich, a 27-year-old Democratic National Committee staffer, was shot and killed early Sunday.

"It's so heartbreaking," says Cole Heard, a neighbor. "It's upsetting, especially being so close to home. Someone can get gunned down right around the corner from where I work, where I live, where I shop."

DC Police officers, alerted by a ShotSpotter listening device, found Rich badly wounded around 4:15 a.m.

Shot twice in the back, Rich was initially stable, but died during emergency surgery, his father, Joel Rich tells ABC7 News.

"It's shaken me to the core," Walter Rivas, a neighbor and frequent dog walker in the area said. "It's very terrifying knowing that it's happening in Bloomingdale, a great little community, where everyone is so tight-knit."

Rich was just a block from home when he was shot.

"(Police) think it was a robbery that went bad," Joel Rich said. "Said he had bruises on him, so he defended himself. But the other person has a gun and guns and bodies don't work well together."

Authorities say nothing was taken and that Rich still had his wallet, his watch, and his credit cards on his person when officers found him.

Police are hoping that surveillance video or other evidence will lead them to the killer or killers.

Residents say the area is quiet and is generally considered safe.

Some are wary about walking around after dark.

"There can be a seedy nature to it sometimes," Heard said. "It needs to be better lighting, and more police presence, which I do know they've stepped up lately."

But others are voicing concern about DC Water's 'Clean Rivers Project' designed to alleviate flooding problems in the neighborhood.

"If you're not familiar with the neighborhood, you can get lost very easily," Rivas said.

Critics say the project's construction sites cause some streets to suddenly dead-end, creating a labyrinth effect sidewalks, that would-be criminals exploit.

"Pedestrians just going home are going from the bar in dark areas," resident Jay Decelle said. "Because there are a lot of dark alleys, a lot of dead ends, you would either have to go through the alley or go the opposite way you know."

Police say back in June, they investigated three armed street robberies and a carjacking in Flagler Place, near Sunday's shooting scene.

MPD says there have been 20 armed robberies in Bloomingdale so far this year.

In all of 2015, there were eight.

"No one should have to fear walking down the street in their own neighborhood," DC Water CEO and General Manager George Hawkins said in a statement.

The utility says it plans to repair street lighting to better illuminate sidewalks during the construction.

Workers will remove 'noise blankets' that shield nearby homes, but also cause "blind spots," that allow criminals to "surprise victims or escape capture," according to a DC Water release.

The utility is also promising additional security, either off-duty officers or private security personnel.

"It is very dimly lit at night so there's a lot of dark areas where people could potentially hide," Rivas said. "Especially with what's just happened, it's incredibly scary."

Police have offered a $25,000 reward for information in Rich's death.

His father is urging people to step up.

"If anyone sees anything, share the information, so the people who are causing this can be stopped," Joel Rich said.

Others say they will keep a wary eye out, especially at night.

"We just have to try to talk to each other and kind of help each other out in times like this," Rivas added.

WJLA - Washington DC