In the seconds after surrendering his leather jacket to a gunman, Maurice Angelo Robinson suddenly changed his mind and decided not to give in.
Robinson's cousin, who was standing right there, said the gunman was about five feet away, a scarf wrapped around his face and a hat pulled low over his eyes. An accomplice, wearing a plastic hockey mask, was at the wheel of a silver and blue Chevrolet Blazer.
No words were exchanged. Robinson crossed the short distance and snatched back one of the $300 jackets -- the one belonging to his cousin -- from the hands of the gunman. The two were about a foot apart when the gunman fired one time, striking Robinson in the chest.
The shooting took place Monday night about 9:15 p.m., directly in front of Union Temple Baptist Church, now under construction on the 1200 block of W Street SE. Robinson, who was 18, fell and never uttered a word, said his cousin, Prince Edwards.
"He did something that wasn't worth it," said Edwards, 17, and the leader of the D.C. chapter of the Guardian Angels. "The leathers weren't worth it. He should have just let it go."
The driver of a District bus who saw the incident called police, and an ambulance arrived a short time later.
Robinson was declared dead at 10:03 p.m. He was the 417th homicide victim this year; that is 27 more than at this time in 1989, when the District set a record.
Police, who released few details yesterday, said the apparent motive was robbery. The two men sped from the scene with one leather jacket, some cash and a two-way radio belonging to Edwards.
Yesterday morning, police tape was still strung in front of the church, a modern structure in the middle of a residential block, and a bloody gauze marked the spot where Robinson fell.
For Edwards, plainly moved but trying to contain his emotions, the sight was almost too much.
"Right there," he said, pointing to the ground. "Where the blood is."
Although only a year separated them, Edwards said Robinson in many ways was like a protective older brother. He would walk often from his house two blocks away to where Edwards lives, a ground-floor apartment on the 3500 block of Sixth Street, which doubles as the Angels' headquarters.
Robinson, who himself once was an Angel, would knock on the window to make sure Edwards got up in time for his job as a cook in a waterfront restaurant. Edwards had gotten Robinson to apply for a similar position at the restaurant, and it looked like the job was going to come through.
Monday night, the two had gone to visit Edwards's 1-year-old son, who lives with his mother several blocks from the scene of the shooting. Afterward, the two were walking to a bus stop when the Blazer stopped and two men got out, one of them armed.
"The guy was after everything we had," Edwards said.
"We started taking off our leather jackets. When they got what they wanted, that's when my cousin decided he wasn't going to take it."
Robinson had bought the jackets last year in New York City and had given one to Edwards. The black waist-length jackets were left in New York for most of the year. Only recently, when the weather turned, did they retrieve them, Edwards said.
Slayings over popular items -- sneakers, sunglasses, portable cassette players -- have occurred in recent years all over the country, law enforcement officials said. Leather jackets also have been a popular target.
For Edwards, yesterday was spent reliving the night before and trying to understand what happened.
Just 24 hours earlier, the two had stood in a grassy patch across from Angels headquarters, taking Polaroid pictures of each other, both dressed in their jackets. On the bottom of his snapshot, Robinson wrote "Playboy," a nickname he fancied.
In 1987, 15-year-old Sean Smith of Northeast Washington was killed after he questioned some youths about a jacket that had been stolen from him several days earlier. The $99 red garment had been bought with money Smith earned at a part-time job in a sporting goods store.
Edwards said he had been trying to teach his cousin how to disarm someone, a tactic practiced by the Guardian Angels. But even if he had known the maneuver, it would not have worked because the gunman was too far away when Robinson first moved toward him.