Student fatally shot in D.C. was 'ready for the next chapter'

By Chris L. Jenkins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 7, 2010; B06

A new world was just beginning to open up for Joshua Hopkins, and he was ready to seize everything in it. His sophomore year in college beckoned, and with the confidence of a young man finding his muse, he was excited about the challenges that lay ahead.

His goal was to complete his communications major at Fairmont State University in West Virginia and follow in the footsteps of his older cousin and mentor, Lester Davis. Family members and friends had begun to see a change, from unfocused teen to responsible young adult. But while joking with friends early Saturday, not far from his Northeast Washington home, the 19-year-old was shot dead.

"He was on his way," said Davis, who helped raise Hopkins by taking him into his home a few years back. For most of his life, Hopkins lived with an aunt. He never knew his father, and his mother was killed when he was 5 months old.

"He was beginning to see there was a vast world out there, and he was beginning to see there was more to the world than just his neighborhood," said Davis, 27.

Davis said witnesses told him that Hopkins was out with friends near his home Saturday morning when one of the members of the group became angry at jokes Hopkins may have been making about him. Davis said the man left the gathering, angry, and returned with a gun and opened fire on Hopkins. D.C. police said Tuesday that they were pursuing all leads.

At a vigil Tuesday evening, dozens of people gathered outside the Watts Branch Recreation Center, where they tearfully remembered Hopkins and pleaded for neighborhood youths not to retaliate. A group of Hopkins's neighborhood friends played a basketball game in his honor.

"It's all love," said Artelious Hopkins, an aunt who raised Joshua. "People in the community know that he made a difference, being a respectful young man, and it makes me proud that I raised him."

Hopkins made an impression on many of the adults he met. After his junior year of high school, he interned on Capitol Hill in the office of Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.). He was remembered there Tuesday as a curious and attentive employee who always asked several questions about each assignment he received, no matter how mundane it may have been.

"Over the course of my time in Congress, numerous interns have served admirably in my office, but none has stood out quite like Joshua Hopkins," Fattah said in a statement. "Josh was a responsible and eager young man always willing to assist the staff wherever and whenever possible."

A 2009 graduate of H.G. Woodson High School, Hopkins was a student in the now defunct-Hoop Dreams Scholarship Fund, which provided mentorship and college preparation for D.C. youths.

Susie Kay, the founder and president of the program, said she had watched Hopkins evolve over the years, learning how to deal maturely with the circumstances of his early family life.

"He was ready for the next chapter," she said. "That's what makes this especially heartbreaking."

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