In a curious twist, a “reformed” criminal hired by the District of Columbia’s chief legal officer to help curb violence has been arrested and charged with murder. The case involves a taxpayer-funded public safety program known as Cure the Streets launched by D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine to reduce gun violence by treating it as a disease that can be interrupted and stopped from spreading. Cure the Streets typically hires men and women with criminal histories as violence interrupters because they know first-hand about the challenges that residents of crime-infested communities live with. Racine, who was reelected to a second term in 2018, says the transformed criminals hired by his program perform community-driven public safety work that can avoid using police.
Here is how they carry out the task, according to Racine’s office: By interrupting potentially violent conflicts because they have relationships and influence within targeted neighborhoods. Violence interrupters “engage with the community to learn about brewing conflicts and resolve them peaceably before they erupt in violence,” the program’s website states. Violence interrupters also identify and treat individuals at high risk for involvement with violence by meeting with them and implementing individualized risk reduction plans. “They also help connect participants with needed services, such as housing, counseling and employment assistance, and develop action plans for a positive future.” Finally, the D.C. Attorney General claims violence interrupters mobilize communities to change norms by engaging residents, local businesses, community leaders and faith leaders to work with high-risk individuals to reduce violence. “CTS works with these partners to organize forums and public events where residents can gather and interact safely without fear of conflict and violence,” the D.C. government website claims. It is not clear what impact Cure the Streets is having on violent crime in the District, but the Metropolitan Police Department reports that homicides are up 20% from last year.
The program operates in notoriously high-crime sections throughout D.C., which are broken down by wards. They include Eckington/Truxton and Trinidad in Ward 5, Marshall Heights/Benning Heights in Ward 7 and Bellevue, Washington Highlands, and Congress Heights in Ward 8. The Cure the Streets employee recently charged with murder was a supervisor who led a team of six violence interrupters and outreach workers. His name is Cotey Wynn, an ex-con with an extensive rap sheet who served a decade in prison before D.C.’s chief legal officer hired him. Wynn’s record includes felony murder, first degree murder, possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine, and distribution of a controlled substance, according to the Metropolitan Police Department. On December 4, the agency’s Capital Area Fugitive Task Force arrested the 39-year-old Wynn and charged him with second degree murder while armed. At the time of his arrest Wynn was under the supervision of the Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia, a federal agency that believes preventative detention should only be a last resort for defendants, who should live in the least restrictive conditions while awaiting court.
Police say Wynn fatally shot a 53-year-old man named Eric Linnair Wright in 2017 near the Trinidad neighborhood in Northeast Washington. The violence interrupter was identified by multiple witnesses after viewing security camera footage from nearby homes, according to police. Authorities also tracked Wynn’s cell phone to the location of the crime. In a statement issued to local media, Racine’s spokesperson said this: “The Office of the Attorney General is aware of Mr. Wynn’s arrest for a homicide he is alleged to have committed in 2017, prior to his employment with Cure the Streets. This case will now proceed through our criminal justice system where Mr. Wynn is presumed innocent. We are confident that justice will be served once this process is complete. Our hearts go out to the family of Mr. Wright, the victim in this case, and to the affected members of the community. The important work of the Cure the Streets team will continue.”
It was not that long ago that the same office, charged with enforcing D.C. laws and protecting the interest of its citizens, bragged about what a great guy Wynn is. In a profile posted on the Attorney General’s website over the summer, Wynn was portrayed as somewhat of a saint. “When observing Cotey at work, you see a respected professional, a loving father, a devoted friend, and a pillar of the community,” according to the piece which includes a photo of the accused murderer delivering resources to D.C. residents during COIVD-19. The story also reveals that Wynn could not find a job after a decade in prison since “the damage to his reputation made it hard for him to find employment” so D.C. government hired him as a violence interrupter for Cure the Streets.
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