An Aug. 13 Metro article and an Aug. 18 follow-up article incorrectly reported that Montgomery County police said Officer Candice Marchone asked Peter Ayompeuh Njang to approach the officer's car in the minutes before Marchone shot and killed Njang. (Published 8/19/04)
Six days after her 25-year-old brother was shot to death by a Montgomery County police officer, Catherine Njang was on the phone, trying to describe Peter Ayompeuh Njang, who had come to the United States from Cameroon in May.
"He was a God-fearing child," she said, starting to cry. "It is only God who knows the truth."
Police told her that her brother, who was waiting outside her Silver Spring apartment Thursday morning, lunged at an officer with a utility knife. They said the officer shot him in the chest in self-defense. He was flown to Children's Hospital and pronounced dead a short time later, police said.
"Things happen. We are not there," Catherine Njang, 32, said haltingly. "He is the child of the whole family. They are crying. They know this type of child. He is a respectful child."
She and her younger brother had planned to go out together Thursday to try to get jobs as security guards. But Peter Njang did not show up on time. By 8:55 a.m., she said, she couldn't wait any longer and took the bus without him.
When she returned to the apartment complex, she said, "the whole place was crowded. The leasing manager asked me, 'Are you living with someone else in the apartment?' " Catherine Njang answered, "Just my husband." She said the manager then told her, "They have shot somebody at your apartment."
She continued, "I saw policemen everywhere. I could not say anything. I could not -- oh! It was such a big loss."
On the lawn by her front porch yesterday stood a poster-size picture of her brother, in a starched white, button-down shirt, black suit pants, a black suit jacket over his arm, and polished brown shoes that matched his belt. He was smiling.
On a large cross were the words, "In memory of Peter Ayompe Njang," and there were 18 bouquets of flowers, two teddy bears, a wreath of yellow roses and the wax remains of 47 red and white candles. On a window of the apartment was taped a large, pink poster quoting Proverbs: "It is not right to favor the guilty and prevent the innocent from receiving justice."
Inside the apartment, Peter Njang's brother-in-law answered the door but said he didn't want to talk. He was watching television and periodically singing along to a Jim Reeves "We Thank Thee" CD in his boombox.
"I'll fly away, oh glory," he sang. "When I die . . . I'll fly away."
On the door to the apartment hangs a typed statement from a cousin, Julius Oben, which begins: "The African community in the Washington, DC metro area is reacting angrily to the shooting death of Mr. Peter Ayompeuh Njang, 25, by a police officer in Montgomery County, MD. The African community, with an estimated population of over 50,000 . . . is planning a series of demonstrations against the Montgomery Police Department."
Officer Candice Marchone, who shot Njang, has been a member of the force for seven years. She was placed on routine leave while the shooting is being investigated, authorities said.
Police said Marchone was on routine patrol in a marked car in the Villa Nova apartments where Catherine Njang lives when she saw Peter Njang loitering outside a building window. Marchone stopped the car, called for backup and got out, asking the man to come closer.
Njang pulled a utility knife from his waistband and moved closer to the officer and ignored Marchone's multiple warnings to stop, police said. They said he came within arm's reach of her before she fired one shot at 11:56 a.m., hitting him in the chest.
She administered first aid and called for emergency medical help.
Calling his brother "a kind, gentle, organized and hardworking man," Sebastien Njang was quoted in the family statement as saying, "We do not believe that he posed any threat to the officer who mercilessly took away his life and our earnest prayer is that justice be done."
Said Catherine Njang on the phone yesterday: "His goal was to be a physician or radiologist -- something with health. . . . I would tell him, 'Do security first, and then register at Montgomery College. You have to register, so you can be doing your courses there.' "
He hadn't yet registered, she said. "We were planning that."