Raw emotion poured out and caused tense moments for dozens of teenagers who attended a vigil Wednesday night for a 15-year-old Prince George’s teenager who was fatally shot on Monday.
Some teens cried over the loss of Charles Walker Jr. Others shouted obscenities or pushed and shoved in bursts of anger, as young men lashed out at the loss and had to be physically restrained. Three such outbursts spooked dozens of teenagers to scatter in fear of further violence, despite a bolstered police presence monitoring the event.
“I don’t know when the last time you all saw him, but me and my sister saw him face down and that’s something we got to go to sleep with every night,” Walker’s uncle, Lester Massey Jr., told about 200 people.
Massey then led the crowd in a march down 28th Avenue in Hillcrest Heights, to the area where Walker was slain.
Massey said he spoke with his nephew shortly before the shooting and that Walker told him he was happy. The uncle said in an interview that his nephew had just purchased a pair of Timberland boots for his girlfriend, the pair of shoes that led to a robbery and then the fatal shooting.
Though Prince George’s County police announced earlier Wednesday that five people were arrested in his killing, the news of arrests appeared to do little to blunt feelings of anger and sadness for many who gathered. After just a few minutes, angry shouts pierced the crowd and shoving sparked fear as dozens fled into nearby yards and ducked behind parked cars.
Police officers responded into the street and helped to restore calm.
The slain teen’s father, Charles Walker, said that he appreciated all of the young people who came out to mourn his son.
“There is power in numbers. Put God first,” Walker said after a cousin offered a prayer to close out an event that concluded with people who continued to chant “CJ! CJ!”
Rev Akil Dickens, a youth minister at Ebenezer AME Church in Fort Washington, said somber gatherings “aren’t enough.”
Dickens, who said he went to Crossland High School with the 15-year -old’s father, said the root of the violence “starts in the home.”
“I have been at Suitland High School all day,” Dickens said. “Several churches are coming together to meet at Suitland High School. We have to put aside our differences and find solutions.”
Suitland High junior Marquel Brown, 18, was sad to lose his friend and though the emotional eruptions were distracting, he said most people came to simply show respect.
“Some stuff was crazy. But all the emotions, people crying – that’s all for love,” Brown said.
Latosha Sligh, 37, taught Walker in the fifth grade at Francis Scott Key Elementary School and said the boy he knew was a star among the many young men she has had in her classroom over the past 13 years.
“Charles was a standout, college-bound child with the right resources, demeanor and work ethic,” Sligh said in an interview. “He was a role model...this should not have happened.
“He was a true victim of circumstances,” she said.