Chocho's jalapeno peppers were just starting to ripen in the garden beside his Silver Spring house. His new outdoor grill, unused and still covered with a tarp, stood waiting in the back yard. And the bathrooms he was fixing up were almost ready for the big party.
It was to be next month: a grand 25th wedding anniversary celebration for him and his wife, Martha. There would be children, friends and relatives; chicken, ribs and fajitas. It would have been wonderful.
Chocho--which Luis Sequeira, 47, made everyone call him--had planned to spend Saturday working on the bathrooms. But first he had to walk the family dog. And in that simple task, he met his violent end.
Sequeira, clad in a T-shirt, shorts and sandals and walking his white Lhasa apso, Percy, was shot to death Saturday when he encountered an armed bandit fleeing a robbery at a nearby Safeway supermarket about 7:45 a.m., police said.
It was the third time in recent weeks that a bystander had been gunned down at random during the commission of a crime in the area. A Prince George's County woman was killed by a stray bullet June 16, and a District woman was caught in the cross-fire while protecting children during a gunfight June 21.
Sequeira was shot three times--twice in the torso and once in the eye--by Shawn Anthony Bowman, 32, of Forestville, who had just robbed the supermarket of more than $2,200 in cash, Montgomery County police said.
Sequeira collapsed at the base of a street sign, four doors from his home. He died in a hospital Sunday night.
After the shooting, authorities said, Bowman, who wore a mask during the robbery, tried to drive away in a white pickup truck with the markings of District Cablevision, where officials said he was employed. He had parked the truck near Sequeira's home, they said.
But police spotted him and gave chase, and he crashed in a driveway nearby, investigators said. He fled on foot but was tracked by police dogs and cornered while hiding in some bushes.
Bowman had served time in jail and had been convicted of armed robbery several times, according to officials and court records. At the time of the shooting, he was on probation for one such conviction in 1997.
He was ordered held without bail after a bond hearing yesterday. He was charged with attempted first-degree murder, armed robbery and use of a handgun in the commission of a felony. John McLane, a spokesman for the state's attorney in Montgomery County, said murder charges could be filed as early as today.
Yesterday, cars crowded the driveway and street outside Sequeira's home on Markham Street as friends and relatives poured in to pay their respects. Black mourning ribbons were hung around the outside of the home.
A half-block away, investigators using a metal detector located what appeared to be a bronze-colored bullet or bullet fragment buried in the dry grass where Sequeira fell--a spot now marked by a cross of white daisies and the words "We'll always love you."
Sequeira, who loved the nickname Chocho because it is used to refer to natives of Nicaragua, had emigrated from Managua, the capital, about 30 years ago, friends and family said.
He was an electronics technician, specializing in TV, radio and VCR repair, and was an employee at a Circuit City repair facility in Laurel, friends and family said. His wife, who rushed to the scene Saturday and found her mortally wounded husband, is a secretary in the international student admissions office of the Montgomery County public school system.
Her husband was described as the ultimate family man, who loved and tended Martha and their three daughters, Tatiana, 24, Maria, 23, and Becky, 20, as he did his beloved garden.
"He'd do anything for his family and friends," David Filoturo, 25, the boyfriend of Becky Sequeira, said as he stood outside the family home yesterday. "He'd do it at the drop of a dime. If you needed help, he was there for you. It wasn't a question of when, it was like: 'Okay, I'll be right there.' "
"A home guy," said Luis Sequeira's brother-in-law, Rolando Villars, 47, of Silver Spring, a District firefighter. "He went to work, came home, took care of his family. Always."
One of 10 children, Sequeira had come to the United States in search of the American dream, Villars said, his eyes filled with tears. "I introduced him to my sister. When he came here, he moved into my house. . . . They got married. Twenty-five years. They were looking forward to that."
Indeed, Sequeira was planning a joyous celebration for the anniversary, and he was busy preparing. He and his wife had recently renewed their wedding vows, Villars and Filoturo said. "A simple man, he didn't want a big party," Villars said. "All he wanted was a cookout with the whole family."
Sequeira had gathered folding chairs on which the guests could sit and had worked on the bathroom renovations until late Friday. He finally had knocked off because he knew he had to walk the dog early the next morning.
"He was at the wrong place at the wrong time," Villars said. "He did what he did every day. Walked the dog. Maybe he saw when the guy parked the truck. The guy tried to eliminate any kind of witness. I don't know.
"It's just hard to understand why would he do this. Why?" he said. "My brother-in-law was wearing a T-shirt, a pair of shorts and sandals. He didn't have anything but his wedding band on his hand."
And the dog was small. "What kind of threat could that be?" Villars said.
"The American dream is what, you try, build up a house away from everything so your family will be safe, right? We thought we did. All of us."
Up the street, as a police investigator swept the ground with a metal detector, a little boy played with a garden hose in his back yard, and festive porch flags rustled in the hot summer breeze.
"The whole neighborhood is devastated," said a woman in the yard, who declined to give her name. "A very nice family man just innocently going about a normal daily routine is mowed down by a senseless act of violence.
"Everybody's extremely upset about it," she said. "What can you say? Nobody's safe. . . . Unfortunately that's our society. We live in a very lovely, family neighborhood. The biggest excitement we've had in months is the street paving. Or somebody has a baby."
Across the street, a woman said she heard the "pop, pop, pop" of the gunfire Saturday morning, looked out her window and saw Sequeira collapsed beneath the street sign.
Afterward, after all the police and the investigators had left, she said, a resident came with a garden hose and washed their neighbor's blood away. You just couldn't leave it the way it was, she said.
Staff writer Brigid Schulte contributed to this report.
CAPTION: Neighbors Osmar Brenes, 10, left, and Raymond Rivera, 9, look at the cross of white daisies left where Luis Sequeira was shot, allegedly by a store robber.
CAPTION: Sequeira, 47, had been preparing for his 25th wedding anniversary party.