Living Right, Taken Out by a Bullet

Friend Thinks D.C. Man Was Mistaken for Another

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 12, 2008; Page B01

As all the craziness and violence swirled around him -- the gangs, the drugs, the gunshots -- Derrell Goins quietly worked on his sketches and kept going to school.

Known in his Adams Morgan neighborhood as "Willow," Goins made all the right decisions growing up. He enrolled in after-school programs, took summer art classes and held down two decent jobs, neighbors said.

But his last decision, to walk back to his car Wednesday night, proved fateful. Goins, 21, was killed in what appears to be a gang-related shooting on a block halfway between Adams Morgan's lively bar scene and a park that has been the scene of several homicides in recent years, police said.

"Willow was a gentle soul. He was a remarkable kid who grew up with family members in jail, with friends in trouble, and he made all the right decisions for himself," said Bryan Weaver, an advisory neighborhood commissioner who had known Goins for years.

The neighborhood helped raise money for Goins when he was a teenager at Wilson High School who wanted to go to art school. They gathered enough donations from area businesses and residents to send Goins to a Corcoran Gallery summer program, where he worked on his pen sketches and expanded to charcoal and acrylics, Weaver said.

He held jobs at a hotel pool and a health club.

"You would've thought he was the vice president of Trump Enterprises, he was so proud of those jobs," Weaver added.

The story of Willow's death is "a sadness too deep for tears," Weaver said, because it speaks to the futility of a life lived well amid chaos.

Weaver believes that Goins was mistaken for someone else, possibly a brother who was in jail about a week ago on weapons charges. "They look a lot alike," he said.

There has been a beef between two gangs whose territories span the area around the Marie H. Reed Community Learning Center at Champlain Street and Kalorama Road. Goins was in that area 8 p.m. Wednesday, walking to his car with friends, police said.

Weaver said he was told by the young men with Goins that as they walked along the 2200 block of Champlain Street, two men in black surprised them. One said, "So whatcha gonna say now?" and then they opened fire.

One of the witnesses told Weaver that they all ran up an alley but that Goins didn't outrun the bullets.

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