Police investigate reported shooting; search for suspects is ongoing

Police canvass the scene where gun shots were reported on the morning of Jan. 2. No suspects are in custody. Photo by Gretchen Brodtman

By KRISSI HUMBARD — Just before 11 a.m., police received a call for gunshots fired near Hyattsville Middle School. Residents reported on social media they heard up to five gunshots in rapid succession.

On Jan. 2 at 10:54 a.m., Hyattsville City Police Department (HCPD) officers responded to a call for the sound of gunshots in the vicinity of 4200 Nicholson Street. Police reported that two people armed with semi-automatic handguns exchanged gunfire. The investigation revealed that suspect #1, located at the intersection of 42nd Place and Nicholson Street, shot at suspect #2, who was at the intersection of 42nd Place and Oglethorpe Street. Suspect #2 returned fire in the direction of suspect #1. No injuries were reported, but vehicles in the area were damaged.

Suspect #1 is described as a thin, black male wearing a blue jacket with a hood, white t-shirt, gray sweatpants and white tennis shoes. Suspect #2 may be either male or female and is described as tall and thin, wearing a ski mask with a single oblong eyehole, black sweatshirt with a wide white stripe on the left sleeve, and dark pants.

Hyattsville City Police officers search the area of reported gunshots on Jan. 2. Photo by Gretchen Brodtman

Both suspects fled the scene prior to police arrival. One suspect fled up Nicholson Street and attempted to carjack a van, but the driver refused, ducked down and then went in reverse to get away from shooter who continued on foot. Police spoke with a witness and canvassed the area for hours, recovering shell casings. A U.S. Park Police helicopter assisted with the search, circling the area for more than an hour. No suspects are in custody.

There have been residents reporting an arrest of a “person of interest” on social media, but HCPD Lt. Chris Purvis said no arrests have been made related to this shooting case.

After the report of gunshots, HCPD coordinated with Hyattsville Middle School, because the school is in close proximity to the vicinity of the shooting. School officials used an abundance of caution to lockdown the school as a way to ensure the safety of the students and staff. The school lockdown was lifted at approximately 1:18 p.m.

DeMatha Catholic High School is still closed for the holidays.

Police were still on the scene when parents were gathering across 42nd Place, waiting to pick up their kids from HMS. One of the parents, Evelin Letarte, was frustrated by lack of communication during the school lockdown.

“There was a lack of solid information getting to both parents and students, which led to angst,” Letarte said.

Her daughter, Quinlan, a seventh-grader at HMS, agreed.

“I was told that someone hijacked a car and they were trying to make sure he couldn’t hide in the school,” Quinlan said. “But a lot of us [students] thought the lockdown was from email threats to Parkdale [High School], William Wirt [Middle School] and Bladensburg [High School]. [The threats] said ‘we gonna kill everyone’ and it sounded like they didn’t care if they were gonna die.”

According to Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS), those three schools received email and social media threats.

“Additional safety measures were taken at all three schools today,” said Monica Goldson, Interim Chief Executive Officer for PGCPS, in a statement. “PGCPS and law enforcement authorities have identified the individual behind email and social media threats to Bladensburg and Parkdale high schools and William Wirt Middle School. The threats were deemed non-credible.”

HCPD released a statement on Facebook this evening about the school threats: “We want our community to know that we take all threats to our schools seriously. At this time, investigators do not believe the threat to be credible. Although no schools in the City of Hyattsville were mentioned, we will be increasing our police presence at our schools.”

Residents with information about the shooting can call HCPD at (301) 985-5060.

Gretchen Brodtman contributed to this report.

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