Mother loses two sons to gun violence in D.C. within 11 years

Eleven years ago, Charles Booker was fatally shot on a Northeast Washington street. On Sunday, younger brother Frederick Booker met the same fate, leaving a mother still grieving over one loss now devastated by another.

It was Frederick who had made the tearful call to Charlene Booker in the summer of 2002, according to a news account at the time: “Mommy, somebody shot Charlie and he’s dead.”

Now, D.C. police are investigating whether a triple shooting Thursday night is related to Sunday’s attack two blocks away that claimed a mother’s only surviving son. It was an unusual spate of violence on the southern tip of Michigan Park, a residential community of single-family homes along the Maryland line.

As residents tried to make sense of the gunfire, Charlene Booker began making funeral plans in her home in suburban Bladensburg. City violence has not only claimed both her children but also left Frederick Booker’s two daughters, ages 6 and 8, without a father.

The family is without answers, too.


Charlie Booker, left, and Frederick Booker pose for a picture in this undated family photo. (Family Photo)

Booker, 29, was shot May 5 while sitting in a car in the 4100 block of 20th Street NE, near Barnard Hill Park. He was pronounced dead at a hospital. The next day, his mother and a cousin, Rhea Joyner, drove to Michigan Park to knock on doors. They spoke to neighbors who rushed to help Booker. But no one knew what happened. And no one, Joyner said, heard the gunshots, fired about 6:40 p.m.

“We wanted somebody to give us information,” said Joyner, an accountant visiting from Richmond who had tried to persuade Booker to move to Virginia and leave behind a life of petty crime and drug arrests. “We know nothing, absolutely nothing. I’m sure the police are doing their job and not releasing information so they can piece together what’s going on. But meanwhile, the family knows nothing.”

Charlene Booker was too distraught to speak to a reporter Friday. The family was preparing a vigil for later that evening at the North Michigan Park Recreation Center.

D.C. police have said little about the investigation into Booker’s killing on Sunday or the triple shooting four days later. They have not released possible motives, nor have they made any arrests.

Thursday’s violence occurred two blocks away from where Booker died, at Taylor and 22nd streets NE. Police said three males were shot, including one who is 16. Some police investigators have said privately that they are looking into whether the shooting was retaliation for Booker’s slaying. Police said the proximity of the incidents raised suspicions that they could be connected, but another police official cautioned against establishing a link this early.

Police said the 16-year-old was hit in the buttocks and leg; a 19-year-old was shot in the back, right leg and foot; and a 22-year-old was hit in both legs. All are expected to survive.

Two police officers were injured when their cruiser crashed several blocks away while responding to the shooting. One was pinned in the wreckage and remains hospitalized. Police said the driver of the other car might have been under the influence of drugs.


Frederick Booker poses for a picture in this undated family photo. (Family Photo)

The triple shooting occurred at the mouth of a wide alley running between single-family homes. At the rainy crime scene Thursday evening, not a single resident ventured to the police tape; most were content to look out from closed windows. The handful who were outside were walking their dogs.

D.C. Council member Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5), called Michigan Park “a very quiet and safe neighborhood that generally doesn’t experience violence. . . . This is an area that doesn’t see very many crimes at all, let alone the shootings and homicides.”

Booker’s cousin, Joyner, said neither she nor other relatives knew the victims in Thursday’s shooting. She said she did not think that Booker’s death was connected to past troubles with the law because he had been working hard to leave that life and was working as a landscaper at the time of his death. He had previously worked as a groundskeeper at the University of Maryland in College Park and had hoped to open his own company.

Booker’s family called him Zikki, or Zekey, short for his middle name, Ezekial. Friends made it “Ziggy.” He grew up in his grandfather’s Michigan Park home; his mother moved to Maryland when the grandfather died in 2006.

But Booker had problems with the law — an arrest on possession of drugs with intent to distribute in 2008 in Prince George’s County, which prosecutors did not pursue, and another for possession of marijuana in the same jurisdiction. He pleaded guilty to that charge last year and served one day in jail.

Joyner said that Booker’s troubles seemed to begin after his brother died. Charles Booker, 19, was killed shortly after midnight on July 20, 2002, in the 4400 block of Seventh Street NE, about 11 / 2 miles from where his brother was slain. He was one of three killed and five wounded over a violent District weekend. Police never assigned a motive nor made an arrest; family members contended that he was struck by a stray bullet.

Washington Post columnist Colbert I. King wrote about Charles Booker’s death, how his body lay on the street uncovered, how Charlene Booker strained the police lines to her son, finally persuading a detective to unzip the body bag, which offered her a glimpse of a bullet to her son’s forehead.

Police also gave her a bag with her son’s belongings. It contained $8, a cellphone and nothing more.

Clarence Williams is the night police reporter for The Washington Post and has spent the better part of 13 years standing next to crime scene tape, riding in police cars or waking officials in the middle of night to gather information about breaking news in and around Washington.
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