Frankie Smith, 17, was killed Jan. 19.
Three young men in a car, which is not always a bad thing. (In other contexts, it's the American act of driving no place.) You are behind the wheel of a Chrysler LeBaron in the waning light of a Monday afternoon, slowly driving around your grandmother's old neighborhood, where you felt most at home. There are red and brown and white brick townhouses along Shepherd Street NW between the 400 and 600 blocks. The trees are bare, and no one is sitting on his porch. It's a cold day. You drive, you stop, then you drive some more.
Here is the part where it goes wrong: A Nissan Altima, according to an affidavit filed after your death, passes you a block away on Taylor Street. Now it's a gang story, according to the warrant paperwork: "The shooting victims in this case are all associated with 'Shepherd Street' and the defendant is associated with 'The Creek.' "
He gets out of the Altima and walks over to your car and shoots you in the head, shoots your friend in the back. You accelerate and career down the street. The 400 block of Shepherd goes to blur, the houses, the trees, the Bless 7-to-9 convenience store, through the stop sign at Fifth, until you veer into a tree.
Here it is spring, and your stepfather, Bill Ware, thinks sadly of you playing basketball and how your allergies would be acting up by now. He thinks of you as a caring person, who liked sports, and he remembers those boxing lessons you took at that place on 14th and W.
Shepherd Street is alive and warm and luminously green on a weekday afternoon, cloaked in shade from the trees, none of which seems to bear a scar from a Chrysler LeBaron. We're a long way from January. Two women are on a porch, talking and laughing. A neighbor walks by with a boa constrictor around his neck. And there is no shortage of boys in cars, driving around with that familiar, cautionary sense of kicked-back momentary pleasure.
-- Hank Stuever