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'Just Totally Senseless'
Two Wilson High Seniors Shot Down After Leaving Game

By Arthur Santana and Sylvia Moreno
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, February 10, 2000; Page A01

When the Wilson High School Tigers had a game, Andre Wallace and Natasha Marsh seldom missed the opportunity to cheer for the team. When they needed to run errands, they did it in Natasha's mother's car. When they studied for school--and they often did--they were together. Talk of college plans had been at the forefront of their conversations.

But Tuesday proved tragically unpredictable. At a basketball game at Wilson that evening, Wallace scuffled with some other young people. Sometime later, as Wallace and Marsh were unloading groceries at her home, a car pulled up and someone fired at the two 17-year-olds.

From inside her house, Marsh's mother, Madilia, heard gunfire shatter the quiet of the dimly lighted street in Brookland. "She said, 'Oh Lord, please don't let it be my baby,' " said Denise Mays, Natasha Marsh's aunt. When Natasha's mother threw open the front door, her worst fear was before her. Her daughter and her daughter's boyfriend had been shot and mortally wounded.

Police spent the day searching for suspects, their attention centered on others who participated in the scuffle Tuesday night. And at Wilson, home to 1,500 students, administrators and grief counselors spent the day trying to deal with the unthinkable: A double shooting had claimed the lives of two promising students, the captain of the football team and his honors student girlfriend.

"It's just unbelievable," Marsh's other aunt, Angela Mays, said through tears yesterday. "It's like a living nightmare for us. It was just totally senseless."

Both were pronounced dead at the scene after police and rescue workers arrived. Preliminary reports were that Marsh was shot four times, Wallace twice, said D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey. It's not clear whether the fight precipitated the shooting, but police are strongly considering that possibility.

"There are a couple of people we want to talk to very much about these homicides," Ramsey said last night. "We're confident that we'll be able to bring this to a satisfactory conclusion."

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) and school officials decried the shootings and expressed their sympathy to the families of the victims.

"Incidents such as this are reflective of a larger community problem related to guns and violence," said School Superintendent Arlene Ackerman. "It will take a collaborative community effort to ensure our children are safe not only in school but also in their neighborhoods."

Classes essentially were canceled yesterday at Wilson, where students spent the day talking about Wallace and Marsh. After school, students gathered outside in clusters, the mood ranging from anguish to giggly storytelling about the two.

"It's a grieving, a loss we feel so much today," said Dennis Leonard, 17. "Andre was just such a different type of athlete. He was kind and friendly and smart and intelligent."

"And he and Natasha were sooo cute," one girl said. "The last time I saw him alive was last night at the game, and he was sitting on the bleachers and she was right there with him, rubbing his shoulders."

Eddie Saah, Wilson's athletic director, described what happened Tuesday night in Wilson's gymnasium as "one punch that led to a mini-mob scene." With three minutes left in the third quarter of the game, a fistfight broke out in the stands opposite where the teams and Saah were sitting.

The first punches appeared to be directed at Wallace, sparking a melee that spread from one end of the stands to the other, Saah said. It lasted about two minutes, during which two school police officers and security intervened.

Some of those who instigated the fight--who may have been former Wilson students--fled the gymnasium. Some of Wallace's friends entered the fray to try to protect Wallace, Saah said.

Wallace ended up on the opposite side of the gym, Saah said, where athletic department officials tried to calm him down. One of the department's trainers looked Wallace over and determined that he was not injured.

When the game ended shortly before 9 p.m., one of the assistant basketball coaches said: "Andre, you go straight home."

Yesterday, Marsh was to interview for a big job. The summer internship at an accounting firm would have been a jewel on the resume of the honor student, who already had taken her SATs and had her sights set on West Virginia University.

Next month, Wallace and Marsh had planned a trip to Jamaica for their last spring break in high school. It would have been an exceptional whirlwind adventure for the pair, who spent most of their time immersed in school--studying, playing sports, cheering at games.

"They were both just very positive kids. They had direction, and they were going somewhere in the world," said Denise Mays. "The world will be short of two very good people."

Marsh, known as "Tasha," lived with her mother, stepfather and brother. She enjoyed computers and had half-joked with family and friends since the fifth grade that her life's ambition was to be a brain surgeon.

Recently, Marsh decided to rechart her career course to focus on accounting. She also participated in the Wilson Academy of Finance, a rigorous academic program in business technology and finance.

Wallace, a standout receiver and defensive back at Wilson, was hoping to get into college on an athletic scholarship. He was considering studying business administration. Denise Mays said the two had been overheard talking about starting a business together.

Last season, Wallace was a defensive All-Met honorable mention and was ranked second among D.C. public school receivers. At 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, he was determined to play college ball and worked to raise his SAT score in order to get into West Virginia University, among other schools.

About three weeks ago, he took the college entrance exam for the second time, hoping to push up his score, maintain his grades and become eligible for a scholarship, Saah said.

"I think he would have been a success in college," Saah said. "He had the determination."

This year, Wallace's third on the team, football coach Horace Fleming appointed him co-captain along with quarterback Avery Bowden. During his junior and sophomore years, Wallace also played basketball and ran outdoor track for Wilson.

Wallace was also a member of the jazz and marching bands and a teacher's assistant at Van Ness Elementary School in Southeast.

Laura Wallace used to slow-dance with her son--whom she called "Dre"--in the living room of their apartment. They both liked singer Angela Stone and good-smelling soap.

Wallace, 38, had a ready answer for why her son might have been killed.

"Jealousy, that's what it is, just jealousy," she said as she sat on her son's twin-size bed, covered with a worn baseball quilt. Nearby were 12 trophies dating from junior high school for baseball, basketball and football.

"It's player hatin', you know?" she said. "It's stupid stuff. It's high school stuff. There are groups, you know. There are the drug groups and the clean groups. They say things, like Dre is a wimp, Dre don't have any money, and like that.

"Dre was a man, and if you treat him like a man, he'd treat you like a man," she said. "That's until you put your hands on him. This guy, he said something to Dre, and Dre just ignored him, disrespected him by not saying anything back. I understand that. You know if you say something to a child and the child ignores you, you get upset.

"Well, the guy hit him in the face, and Dre hit him back. He won. He was treating it like it's all over. But the guy made a threat. He said, 'It ain't over yet.'

"Dre just looked at him. It wasn't over."

Staff writers Petula Dvorak, Tarik El-Bashir and Linda Wheeler contributed to this report.

© Copyright 2000 The Washington Post Company

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