Cotey Wynn, 39, was arrested earlier this month in relation to the 2017 shooting death of Eric Wright, 53.
Multiple witnesses described seeing a man who matched Wynn’s body type walking around northeast Washington a year before he was hired by the district to help curtail crime in the same area.
Wynn’s public defender Pierce Suen argued in his first court appearance against keeping Wynn locked up.
“He’s a respected member of this community,” Suen said during the 11-minute remote hearing. “Because of the role that he plays in this neighborhood, I think the court can readily find that he is in fact not a danger. Quite the opposite. He actively works to prevent dangerous situations here in the district.”
The judge ordered Wynn to be held until his preliminary hearing on Christmas Eve.
According to the criminal complaint filed on Saturday, Washington’s police received an anonymous tip from someone who identified Wynn as the suspect caught on surveillance footage that the police posted to YouTube. A separate witness also identified Wynn as the suspect in the video.
Wynn was hired as a violence interrupter as part of the city’s Cure the Streets program.
Violence interrupters are typically ex-offenders who are brought in to connect with at-risk young men on the street who are contributing to violence in the nation’s capital, which in 2020 has recorded the highest number of homicides in more than a decade.
CTS uses a “data-driven, public-health approach to treat violence as a disease that can be interrupted, treated, and stopped from spreading,” according to the website.
According to his biography on the CTS webpage, Wynn compared being in jail to being locked in a bathroom.
“Go into your bathroom, lock the door, and stay in there all day — because that’s what I had to go through for 10 years,” he said. “And that’s where I had to lay.”
At the time of his arrest, Wynn was supervising a team of six interrupters in the Trinidad neighborhood. His biography also says he decided to turn around his life after his 2014 prison release.
The anti-violence CTS program is run by the D.C. Office of the Attorney General. A write-up of Wynn on the attorney general’s website says he grew up in the Trinidad neighborhood and was in the process of getting a baseball and football scholarship when things went awry. He began making poor decisions that gave him “a shortcut to the jewelry, the cars, and the money.”
“My peers glorified me for the wrong I did,” Wynn said.
Wynn has an extensive arrest history that 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. He was also shot five different times before being incarcerated.
His release six years ago wasn’t easy. His profile mentioned that “re-entering the community presented a whole new set of challenges.”
“The damage to his reputation made it hard for him to find employment. He wanted to stay on the right path and be a role model for his son,” his profile reads. It was his push to stay on the right path that led him to CTS.
At his hearing last week, his lawyer said Wynn’s work as a violence interrupter helped him develop a “deep network of connections,” including those with D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine, Mayor Muriel Bowser, and members of the city council.
Racine’s office said it is aware of Wynn’s recent arrest.
“This case will now proceed through our criminal justice system where Mr. Wynn is presumed innocent,” the written statement from Racine’s office said. “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.”
A request made by the Washington Examiner to Bowser’s office for comment was not immediately returned.