Police think that the 28-year-old man fatally shot two blocks from his Capitol Hill rowhouse early Monday was probably targeted in a random robbery attempt, according to investigators familiar with the case.
The authorities cautioned that their investigation is preliminary and that new information or fresh leads could steer them in another direction as they try to determine why Jason Anthony Emma was shot in his car on C Street NE.
Two days after Emma’s killing, police were reluctant to identify a possible motive. D.C. Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), who represents the area, said he had spoken to Emma’s father and to top police commanders but was told little about the investigation.
“They said, ‘We have questions we need to figure out,’ ” Wells said. Authorities have declined to say what, if anything, was taken in the attack.
Police last publicly commented on the case Monday but released few details: Emma was shot shortly after 2 a.m. after he had parked his black Audi in the 1200 block of C Street NE after a night out with friends.
A police report said the car was running when officers responded to what 911 callers described as a burst of gunfire. Officers found Emma slumped over the steering wheel, and he was pronounced dead at the scene.
Wells said residents of Capitol Hill are asking pointed questions about crime in their neighborhood, where recent attacks have caused concerns.
Wells noted the robbery and beating of Thomas Maslin, who was attacked in August on his way home from a bar on Pennsylvania Avenue. That incident led bars in the area to warn patrons about walking home after closing. Police have made arrests in that case.
“I don’t know what to tell people about this crime,” Wells said of Emma’s death.
Emma, an accountant who grew up in Arlington County, had recently moved to Capitol Hill to live with longtime friends from Virginia. A friend and roommate said Emma loved city life and was excited about living within walking distance of D.C. bars and restaurants.
In an interview Monday, the friend — a D.C. firefighter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case was unsolved — would not say where Emma had been before he was killed, or what police have told him or relatives.
A police official with knowledge of the case said detectives have found nothing in Emma’s past to indicate a motive for his killing. The official also said that detectives do not think anything Emma did in the hours preceding his death could be linked to the attack.
Police officials discussed the case on the condition that they not be identified because the investigation is ongoing.
On Wednesday, Emma’s friend said the family remained in seclusion in their Arlington home. Wells declined to share what he discussed with the victim’s father, Robert Emma, in a phone conversation.
“It was Christmas Eve and he had lost his son,” Wells said.
Emma’s younger brother Max posted a tribute to him on Facebook that has attracted dozens of comments. Through his brother’s friend, Max Emma consented to having portions of it published.
“You were my brother, my best friend, a mess at times, but always carried a heart full of love,” he wrote. “You were a giving soul and always thought about others before yourself. If I may have one real complaint in life Jason, it is that I did not get to spend the remainder of my life growing old with you and our loving family. That was the plan.”
He added: “Rest now, Jason. Close your eyes and wait for us to join you in the ultimate paradise. I will always love you. You deserved better.”
At the end of the post, he told family and friends to “please stay tuned as we plan on honoring my beautiful brother’s life in a grand way in the coming days.”
A funeral is scheduled for Saturday.
Allison Klein contributed to this report.