A July 19 Metro article contained an incorrect first name for the brother of shooting victim Herminio Moscoso. His name is Edwin, not Elwin. The article also incorrectly referred to Herminio Moscoso's vehicle as a van; it is a Ford Mustang. (Published 7/27/2005)
The Prince George's County crime rampage started about 5 a.m. yesterday when Herminio Moscoso was warming up his van to take himself and his two younger brothers to work at their construction job, just as he did every morning at that hour.
Out of nowhere, a man put a gun to the head of Moscoso's 18-year-old brother, Elwin, as the teenager walked toward the van in the parking lot of a Glenarden apartment complex. Herminio Moscoso jumped from behind the driver's seat to protect his brother from the four men who had surrounded him. One of the robbers shot Herminio Moscoso, 26, a father of two, killing him instantly.
Over the next hour and a half, police said, the same four men committed a rash of violent crimes that spanned two miles and ended with two men dead and two others robbed.
About 15 minutes after killing Moscoso, the men fatally shot William Everette Miller in a botched robbery in Landover, police said. Miller, 46, an auto mechanic on his way to buy a pack of cigarettes, tried to speed away from the robbers when they approached him at a gas station on Columbia Park Road. They shot him, and he died a short time later at Prince George's Hospital Center.
Police are looking for the gunmen, described as being in their late teens or early twenties, driving a newer-model tan or light-colored sedan.
The slayings capped a bloody weekend in Prince George's in which two people were killed Saturday and a police officer shot and wounded a man Sunday night in Capitol Heights. The county's homicide total this year is 96, an increase of almost 30 percent compared with this time last year.
In the same period, rapes have increased 20 percent, robberies have risen 45 percent and carjackings are up 48 percent.
Police said yesterday's homicides were out of the ordinary because most of the county's killings involve drug debts or some form of retaliation. In contrast, detectives said, Moscoso and Miller were just unlucky men who were targeted for robberies as they began their Monday mornings.
"A lot of our homicides are drug dealers or friends fighting each other," said Lt. Robert Nealon of the homicide unit. "These were just innocent people."
After the two killings, police said, the four stopped in Fairmount Heights, in the 5100 block of Duel Place, and robbed a 52-year-old man of his wallet at a gas station at 6:15 a.m. They then went to the 5600 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Highway in Capitol Heights and robbed the fourth victim.
Police said that the four men worked their way down Martin Luther King Jr. Highway toward the District and that they probably fled into the city. Detectives said they were working with the D.C. police to search for the men.
At the Moscoso home in the Glen Reed Apartments, where the rampage began, about 15 red-eyed family members sat in a circle yesterday, drinking beer and eating pastries from a tray. Children, including Moscoso's daughters, ran in and out of the bedroom.
Ingrid Villela-Pacheco, Moscoso's cousin, described him as a proud father who worked hard to provide for his family and played soccer in his free time. He was employed by a construction company for seven years, first as a laborer and later as a foreman.
She said Moscoso had always looked out for his brothers and sisters. Since coming to Maryland from Guatemala seven years ago, he had faithfully sent money home to his sisters there. "He's always been protective of them," she said.
She described Moscoso's brother Elwin as "still in shock."
Villela-Pacheco said the family has lived in the apartment complex for almost two years and has never felt unsafe. "The neighbors know us, and we know them. We all get along. We've never had a problem," she said.
Moscoso planned to save money and eventually return to his native country, his family said.
On the sidewalk outside the three-story brick apartment building, a bloodstain could be seen, surrounded by bouquets of flowers, cans of Modelo beer and a gold cross. Friends and family members stopped by to add items and pay respects.
A mile away, at the Miller house in Landover, Miller's wife, Mary, 47, stood crying and wiping tears near the front door, which was left ajar for visitors to come through to offer their condolences.
Wearing a gray silk-screen T-shirt with family photographs on the front, she said she knew that her husband of 27 years tried to resist the robbers with the same bravery that made him a good father to their four children, now grown.
"I know he didn't go out without a fight," she said.
About a dozen relatives and friends sat on a black leather couch and chairs in the Millers' living room while Mary Miller stood near the door, leaning on a banister. She talked about how she and her husband were getting ready to move into a bigger house on Central Avenue in September.
That's when she broke down in tears and covered her face with her left hand. On her ring finger, she wore a gold ring that her husband had bought her. On the ring is an "M," which stands for Miller. Turned upside down, it's a "W," which stands for William, she said.
As Mary Miller grabbed her gold crucifix necklace, she talked about how random the early morning slaying was. "He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time," she said.