Random act of violence claims man's life

Bill Mitchell, 33, was fatally shot Wednesday night after coming to a woman's aid as he walked home along North Capitol Street and Florida Avenue NW.
Bill Mitchell, 33, was fatally shot Wednesday night after coming to a woman's aid as he walked home along North Capitol Street and Florida Avenue NW.
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 21, 2011; 11:33 PM

Bill Mitchell was the kind of man who stepped up instead of shying away, the kind of person who would help someone even if he didn't know them, his friends and family say.

So on Wednesday night, after he had seen the play "Cymbeline" at the Shakespeare Theatre with his mother, he hopped on the Metro to the New York Avenue Station, walked home along North Capitol Street and Florida Avenue NW and saw a woman who needed help. Mitchell, 33, got involved.

He exchanged words and possibly tussled with an unknown assailant who was hassling the woman and who then shot and killed Mitchell.

"There was some sort of altercation, and we have to figure out what that interaction was," said D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5), who said he had spoken with police and witnesses. "He may have intervened in something, being a Good Samaritan."

Police wouldn't comment on the shooting Friday except to say that it was under investigation by homicide detectives.

Mitchell was outgoing and generous, caring for community and children, relatives said. He volunteered at the U.S. Botanic Gardens and tutored at-risk children with the nonprofit mentoring program Horton's Kids in Northeast.

He had once planted trees and cleaned up his Bloomingdale neighborhood, at the same triangle park where he was killed Wednesday, his family said.

"We hope that his senseless death can help in some way to make the area he lived in a safer place," the Mitchell family said in a statement.

Mitchell's younger brother made a plea for information.

"There may come a time when police ask for the public's help," Brian Mitchell said. "Please contact the police if you know anything. It was my brother today. It could be your brother, son, sister, mother or daughter tomorrow."

The intersection of North Capitol and Florida is one of the city's busiest, crammed with commuters during the morning and evening rush hours and impatient bus passengers waiting to catch one of the six buses that run through there.

The shooting took place on a triangle-shaped island of concrete at the northwest corner. Neighbors call it a park, but it has no grass; five trees are protected at their base by spiky metal tree boxes. It is most notable for its bus stops and a small bench that some neighbors say attracts people who loiter there all day from the nearby homeless shelter, or others with social problems.

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