Services held for first of four Southeast D.C. shooting victims

Family and friends attend the funeral of Tavon Nelson at Washington's 10th Street Baptist Church. Nelson, 17, was one of four people killed in a drive-by shooting March 30 in Southeast Washington.
By Maria Glod
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A week after 17-year-old Tavon Nelson was killed in one of the deadliest shootings on District streets in years, family and friends gathered to remember a "normal kid" who was a PlayStation fanatic, loved cheese pizza and spent hours at local malls.

Nelson, known to his friends by the nickname Tadom, was one of four people slain March 30 when young men in a minivan sprayed bullets into a crowd hanging out on a corner in Southeast Washington. Five others were wounded.

"This is the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life is to say words over Tavon," Nelson's uncle, Kenneth Nelson, told the crowd gathered at Tenth Street Baptist Church in Northwest Washington. "He was supposed to say words over me. But we live in a world that is topsy-turvy."

The service, the first held to honor the four victims, began as a memorial to a young man who was close to his family, a sports fan and enjoyed listening to rap. But, as community leaders and local politicians arrived, it also became a call to action and rally for change in the city's most troubled neighborhoods.

"My friends, this is the first of four that are to be buried. Is this our city? Will we claim it?" Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said to the crowd. "One was too many. Four was unspeakable. This, my friends, was an outsized tragedy."

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D), who has announced that he will challenge Fenty, were among the local leaders who came to offer condolences. Ward 8 council member Marion Barry (D) spoke at the service.

"Your politicians and elected officials need to be there for these families and this community after the cameras are gone ... after the headlines," Barry said. "I stand ready to do all that I can."

The night of March 30, Nelson and 16-year-old Brishell Jones, 18-year-old DaVaughn Boyd and 19-year-old William Jones III were killed in gunfire that police think was the result of an ongoing feud sparked by suspicions over a missing bracelet.

Authorities said it may have started at a March 21 party attended by Sanquan Carter, 19, the brother of Orlando Carter, one of those charged in the March 30 shootings.

According to court records, Sanquan Carter became angry during the party, which stretched into the next morning, because he thought someone had stolen his gold-colored bracelet. When a car pulled up, Carter talked to someone inside, and the shooting began. Jordan Howe, 20, was killed, and another person was wounded. Police said in an affidavit that neither Howe nor the other victim took the bracelet. Sanquan Carter was arrested and charged with murder. His brother Orlando was also a suspect.

On March 23, a law enforcement source said, Orlando Carter was wounded by gunfire. The motive is unclear, but police are looking into the possibility that he may have been targeted to avenge Howe's death.

At least some of the victims in the March 30 shooting had just attended Howe's funeral, authorities said.

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