Still, every school is a small community unto itself. At Charles H. Flowers, Central, Friendly and Suitland high schools and the Foundation School, each student body acutely felt the tragedy in its ranks. Those emotions then spread from young people in classrooms to their families at home, and eventually to the wider public.
Wednesday night, in the frigid air, about 200 people marched in a vigil to the place where Charles Walker was shot in Hillcrest Heights, among them teenagers with nerves clearly frayed. Some began pushing, some shouting, and others began to flee, afraid that a melee might erupt, that there might be gunfire.
Lester Massey Jr., an uncle of the slain youth, grabbed a teenager at the center of the skirmish, hugging him tightly. “You got to show love and stop all this . . . violence and beefing, man,” Massey said. “We got to pull together.”
Walker “was a standout, college-bound child with the right resources, demeanor and work ethic,” said Latosha Sligh, his fifth-grade teacher of years ago.
This school year, at age 15, he was a freshman at Suitland High, and he had a girlfriend, for whom he bought a pair of Timberland boots. Late Monday afternoon, carrying the new footwear in a bag as he walked along 28th Avenue, Walker was accosted by five young men in a van, according to police.
Someone in the vehicle pointed a gun, demanding the bag, police said. After Walker turned and ran, he was shot in the back. The assailants then fled without the boots. Police have charged five people, ages 18 to 23, with murder.
“He was a true victim of circumstances,” Sligh said.
Police say Marckel Ross, 18, a track athlete who dabbled in modeling, was killed in the same way — by a would-be robber. A junior at Central High in Capitol Heights, Ross was walking to school on the morning of Sept. 11 when someone pointed a gun at him on the street. Whether the assailant stole anything is unclear.
But he took Ross’s life.
At least one suspect, already in custody, probably will be charged in the shooting early this week, law enforcement officials said.
“A lot of the parents are concerned about their children,” said Ernest Moore, president of the Prince George’s PTA Council. “Not only just walking home, but being outside by themselves.”
Kidd, an 18-year-old freshman at Suitland High, was fatally shot early Tuesday evening while hanging out with other young people in the parking lot of a Forestville apartment complex. He had been arrested for trespassing there in the past.