I don’t visit Washington, D.C. much anymore. Back when I lived in northern Virginia I’d take my kids to visit the Smithsonian museums every few months, and my wife and I would occasionally drive in to the District to have dinner or to see a show at the wonderfully quirky and now defunct Palace of Wonders bar. Even after we fled the D.C. suburbs for the wilds of central Virginia a decade ago I’d still find myself in D.C. for business or a networking event several times a year, but I don’t think I’ve driven across the Potomac in over twelve months. The last time I was there the change to the city was noticeable; homeless encampments thronging DuPont Circle and Union Station, graffiti covering highway overpasses and road signs, and even less upkeep in parks and green spaces.
Crime has gotten worse in the District as well. In fact, while many U.S. cities are seeing a decline in homicide rates this year, D.C.’s headed in the wrong direction, with homicides up 17% this year compared to 2022. Maxwell Emerson is one of the 130 people who’ve been killed in our nation’s capitol this year. The 25-year-old social studies teacher from Oldham County, Kentucky was in the city for a professional development workshop at the Library of Congress when he was shot and killed on the morning of July 5th on the campus of Catholic University, and the man arrested in his shooting death is no stranger to the law. In fact, 22-year-old Jaime Maceo has been repeatedly charged with crimes over the past three years, and every time he’s managed to walk away with probation, even when he’s violated the terms of his previous releases.
Maceo, of Northwest, D.C., was arrested and charged with first degree murder in Emerson’s death on Tuesday.
Court documents show Maceo is a repeat felony offender who continued to get put on probation. He had three convictions in the last three years and received probation in every case — even though one of the cases was for a violent burglary and another was for threats.
Prosecutors said Maceo consistently violated his probation, failed to report for mental health treatment, substance abuse treatment, drug testing, and was testing positive for cocaine.
The most recent case was in March, where Maceo was convicted of attempted threats and his 120-day sentence was suspended. Prosecutors said he is a danger, and are using his long criminal history to try and convince a judge to keep Maceo in jail until his trial.
“The defendant was already on probation in three cases at the time of the instant offense, including a crime of violence and a gun possession offense,” prosecutors wrote in the court documents. “He has been given repeated opportunities to attend drug and mental health treatment programs… and was placed back into the community even after he violated his probationary conditions…
“Despite all of these chances, the defendant continued to commit crimes and tragically, during his most recent criminal activity, once again committed with a firearm, he robbed and killed someone who had tried to show him kindness by giving him money when he asked for help. Through this pattern of violations of probation and serious criminal activity, the defendant has demonstrated by clear and convincing evidence that no conditions will reasonably protect the community from him if he is released.”
Washington, D.C. politicians made it incredibly easy for Maceo to illegally possess a firearm. Time and time again the criminal justice system delivered a slap on the wrist, whether Maceo was charged with possessing a gun without a license or a violent felony. Even violating the terms of his probation was no barrier to being returned to the streets, and if Maceo believed he could get away with murder it’s probably because he’s been able to get away with so many other offenses over the past few years.
While D.C. is turning a blind eye to many offenses, those who want to remain on the right side of the law are still subjected to a laundry list of restricitions that make it almost impossible for them to exercise their right to bear arms in self-defense, especially if they don’t call Washington, D.C. home. According to the website of the gun control group Giffords, in order for a non-resident to obtain a permit they must first possess a valid concealed carry license from their home state, even if their home state doesn’t require lawful gun owners to possess a carry license in order to bear arms. You must also visit the Metropolitan Police Department in person for an interview; an impossibility for those who, like Emerson, will be visiting the city for just a few days. The sheer number of “gun-free zones” also has a chilling effect on non-residents bearing arms in self-defense, with public transportation and a host of other “sensitive places” deemed off-limits to lawful carry.
Things have gotten so bad in D.C. that the city council finally approved a bill this week that’s mostly aimed at repeat violent offenders and not lawful gun owners, despite the fretting over the past few years about overpolicing and mass incarceration. Whether the new laws will make a difference in practice remains to be seen, but even under the District’s previous statutes there was nothing on the books preventing Maceo from being sentenced to prison for his serious offenses. The failure to put a violent offender behind bars even after multiple convictions and probation violations may rest largely with D.C.’s judicial system and prosecutors, but they’ve been aided and abetted by local politicians who are also preventing responsible gun owners from exercising their Second Amendment right to armed self-defense in our nation’s capitol.