Suitland High student, 18, killed; county starts task force on ending string of deadly violence
By Ovetta Wiggins, Dan Morse and Matt Zapotosky,
An 18-year-old Suitland High School student was fatally shot late Tuesday afternoon, one day after a classmate was slain in a random robbery, marking six killings of Prince George’s students since the school year began.
The violence has prompted the county to start a task force to address the slayings.
“When five high school students are killed within the 2012-2013 school year, we all demand both justice and an accounting for the circumstances that give rise to juvenile violence,” Police Chief Mark A. Magaw said Tuesday before the sixth student was shot.
The six cases are unrelated, officials said, and have occurred across the county. Two were gang-related, but with no discernible pattern, law enforcement authorities and school officials are frustrated at the continuing violence.
Magaw said that members of the police department, prosecutors, school officials and representatives of interfaith and other nonprofit groups will work together in coming weeks to devise a plan to help stop the killings.
Tuesday’s incident occurred in an apartment complex in Forestville. Two 18-year-old men were shot, one fatally, about 5:30 p.m. Police have not released additional details.
On Monday, Charles Walker Jr. — known as “Chuck” or “CJ” — was walking down 28th Avenue carrying a bag of shoes. A vehicle carrying several people, at least one of them armed with a gun, pulled up. They tried to rob Walker of the shoes without even getting out of the vehicle, according to a law enforcement official. After a confrontation, Walker, 15, was fatally shot.
“The motive of this case is robbery,” Magaw said.
Although other jurisdictions in the region have seen some violence against teenagers, none has seen as many as has Prince George’s. In most of the cases outside the county, the killers knew their victims.
“I am really enraged that a young person in our community can’t walk the streets with a shopping bag without being shot in the back,” State’s Attorney Angela D. Alsobrooks said.
Coleman said the shootings and their random nature are particularly frustrating for educators. “I’m a parent, too, with children in the school system,” Coleman said. “It scares me to death. These students have bright futures, and they were taken away.”
Grief counselors assembled at Suitland High School on Tuesday to help students and staff deal with Walker’s death. For some counselors, it is the third or fourth time they have been called to help students and teachers work through their grief.
Counselors will be on hand this week and, if needed, next week.
“Death is never easy,” said Elizabeth Saison, supervisor of counseling for the school system, who spent part of the day at Suitland. “The children are trying to process why. . . . They are angry.”
Nathan Newman, the principal at Suitland, sent a letter to parents Tuesday to inform them of Walker’s death and the school’s continued effort to provide a “safe and orderly environment” at the high school.
Newman suggested that parents talk to their children about the incident and encourage them to share their feelings.
Lewis McIlwain, whose daughter is a senior at Suitland, said the schools can only do so much. “The school can make every effort so that no improper weapon is in the school,” he said. “But it is handicapped on what happens outside the school. That’s a community issue.”
But Board of Education member Edward Burroughs (District 8), who represents Friendly High School — it also lost a student, Marcus Antonio Jones, 16, this year — said the district and the community must come together to address the violence.
“It is beyond sad that in Prince George’s County public schools we are continuing to experience death after death, murder after murder,” he said. “These incidents occur out in the community, but they have a devastating impact on the schools and communities as well.
“Our students must feel safe both in and out of school if they are going to learn and be successful. No child should have to worry about being stabbed or shot or have to fear gang retaliation in or out of school.”
On Aug. 22, Amber D. Stanley, a senior at Charles H. Flowers High School, was killed in her Kettering home. Less than a month later, Marckel Norman Ross, an 18-year-old junior, was fatally shot Sept. 11 while walking to Central High School.
Julie A. Parker, a county police spokeswoman, said no arrests have been made in either case. Police are following “substantial leads” in Stanley’s killing and the police chief has previously said he is “confident that [Ross’s] case will close soon,” Parker said.
Eliezer Benjamin Reyes, a 14-year-old who attended the Foundation School, an alternative school in Largo for students with behavioral or emotional disabilities, was killed in a drive-by shooting Dec. 4. A little more than a month later, Marcus Jones was shot at a party in Fort Washington. He was a sophomore at Friendly. Both of those shootings were gang-related, police said.
Parker said that one suspect was arrested in Reyes’s killing and that a warrant was obtained for a second suspect. In Jones’s death, police have charged two teenagers with first-degree murder and are looking for a third suspect.
Police officials said they were making good progress in the Walker case and expected to make arrests.
In interviews Tuesday, Charles’s three siblings described him as a happy-go-lucky kid who talked of pursuing baseball or a rap career after high school. “If you were sad, he’d bring you up just by laughing or smiling,” said Sade Massey, 17.
She and brothers Tyrek Walker, 14, and Rashan Walker, 12, spent part of Tuesday at a store near their apartment, having T-shirts bearing Charles’s picture made.
Inside the shop, Rashan said he didn’t know how he would get by without Charles. “I can’t live without him. I imagined him by my side when we got to be older.”
Peter Hermann and T. Rees Shapiro contributed to this report.