He described himself as a drug dealer from 6th Street Southeast, and according to his testimony his choice of neighborhood friends is what led to his downfall.
Twenty -eight year old Nathaniel Dwight Simms, took the stand in the South Capitol Street murder trial Wednesday at DC Superior Court as the prosecution's star witness against five defendants accused of murder and conspiracy.
Like many of the prosecution's witnesses testifying in this trial, Simms came from jail, and sat in shackles in the jury box a few feet from where 15 jurors and alternates heard him admit to being not just involved in the murders and conspiracies, but the triggerman wielding the AK47 assault rifle, that helped mow down 9 people at the corner of South Capitol and Brandywine, SE that night of March 30, 2010. Three of those victims died.
"Did you know any of those individuals?," Assistant US Attorney Michel Brittin asked Simms.
"No sir," Simms responded.
According to Simms, the defendants, the Carter brothers, Orlando and Sanquan, were the ones behind all of the violence, while he and the others were followers, doing the Carters bidding because they were neighborhood friends.
"I knew what we did was wrong," a tearful Nathaniel Simms said on the stand, "Every night it's all I really think about."
The prosecutor asked Simms how he became involved in the first shooting incident on March 22, 2010 that lead to the murder of 20-year-old Jordan Howe. Simms said he'd been gambling that night and lost everything. He went to a girlfriend's house depressed, he said, when defendant Jeffrey Best called him, telling him Orlando Carter needed a ride and would pay him since he knew Simms was broke.
Simms said he was borrowing another girlfriend's car. He was tired, he told Orlando to drive it. He said they hadn't left the neighborhood, when Orlando received a call and became very angry saying his brother Sanquan had just been robbed.
He said Orlando Carter called to his godmother, who lived nearby, and told her to bring him his "b…." his name for the AK47 assault rifle. He said Orlando Carter walked to the woman's house, returned with the rifle and lay in in the backseat of the car, next to Best.
They headed to 1331 Alabama Avenue where Sanquan Carter had been hanging all weekend, according to testimony. Sanquan could not find a fake diamond bracelet he'd layed down earlier, while having sex with 15-year-old girl.
According to Simms, they did not know exactly what Sanquan, then 18, had lost, Simms testified that when Orlando, then 19, drove up he told Sanquan to get in the car, thinking they were going to go look for the people who had robbed his younger brother.
Simms said Sanquan said "it's here" and reached into the car and took a .380 pistol that Simms had lying on his lap. He said Sanquan went immediately to a group of people and wielding the pistol, started patting down one of the males .
Simms said at that point Orlando with the AK 47 and Jeff Best with a pump action shotgun, got out of the car. Simms said Orlando told him to turn the car around, so they would be ready to go quickly. He said no sooner had he turned the car around than he saw Sanquan Carter back away from the man he was searching and open fire in his direction.
Simms said Orlando, who with Best, was standing behind Sanquan, then opened fire with the AK47. Simms said he saw people running into the building and sparks flying as bullets hit the building. He said Best couldn't figure out how to fire the shotgun and was jump pumping it, trying to make it work.
In that melee, Jordan Howe was killed as he sat in a parked car.
During questioning Britten showed lots of photographs of the sixth street crew posing for pictures at a nightclub , asking Simms to identify people in the photographs.
When the prosecutor brought the assault rifle for Simms to identify, several mothers and grandmothers of victims became so overcome with emotion, they fled the courtroom in tears.
At one point, the prosecutor asked Simms what he believed that his plea bargain to testify would do for him? Simms said he didn't know, then added
"I know I played a major role. I expect to spend the rest of my life in jail. To expect anything less than that would be dumb and naive."
Simms has already pleaded guilty to 5 murders and 2 conspiracies. Simms will be back on the stand when the trial resumes Thursday.
The defendants besides Sanquan and Orlando Carter, ages 20 and 21 now, are Jeffrey Best, Robert Bost and Lamar Williams, all age 22.