Wendell West turned up the volume on his stereo until his best friend's voice filled the living room of his Indian Head home.
"I've been a writer since diapers and pacifiers," Danny Stigers rapped with cool confidence on a demo CD. "You don't believe it, you can come to my crib and see it. I ain't got no secrets."
Those beats and words are pretty much all that West has left of his friend now. Stigers, 23, staggered into West's townhouse Friday night after being shot once in the upper chest by an acquaintance, according to friends and the Charles County Sheriff's Office. The wounded Stigers, whose blood was still on the white walls of the residence, was taken by friends to the Fort Washington Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, police said.
As of Tuesday afternoon, no one had been charged in the killing, the fifth homicide of the year in Charles County. Stigers's body was taken to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore for an autopsy.
Some friends and relatives of Stigers's said the shooting was an accident. Police said the motive of the shooter remains under investigation. Authorities had identified the person who argued with Stigers, but it was not clear Tuesday whether they had interviewed him yet.
"I didn't even consider him my best friend; he was like my brother," West said of Stigers. "He was one of the nicest people you ever met. I'm still in shock."
On Friday night, Stigers and a handful of other friends had been at West's townhouse on Oakside Lane in the Riverside Run neighborhood in Indian Head. They gathered to watch a Los Angeles Lakers game on a 52-inch television. About 9:40 p.m., Stigers went outside to a parking lot, where he became involved in an argument with someone who shot him once in the upper chest, said friends and police.
Relatives, including Stigers's stepmother, Judy Doniver, said the shooter was a friend, and the killing an accident. Sheriff's office spokeswoman Kristen Timko said investigators were not "in a position right now to say that it was an accident." A witness heard an argument in the street followed by the sound of shots fired, police said.
In 2001, Stigers graduated from Lackey High School, where he was a member of the youth-mentoring group S.A.D.D. (Students Against Destructive Decisions) and a defensive lineman on the football team, according to friends. He went on to play at Montgomery College, Doniver said, before returning to Charles County, where he held a series of jobs, including working at the Beretta USA plant in Accokeek. The day before he was shot, she said, he had decided to enlist in the Air Force.
"He was a very smart kid, and that's what he wanted to do. He wanted to make me and his father and his mother very proud of him," Doniver said.
To his friends, however, Stigers had one guiding passion: hip-hop. On the day he was shot, West said, Stigers twice had seen the just-released movie "Get Rich or Die Tryin' " starring rapper 50 Cent.
"He was determined to get famous," said stepbrother Michael Burns, 22. "He loved rapping. . . . That was all he would do all day long."
Determined to record Stigers's rhymes, Burns said he was inspired to buy studio mixers, speakers, beat machines and microphones. Under the name Blockstarr Records, they made a demo CD, "Am I My Brothaz Keepa," and performed a couple times in Virginia.
"I do believe if he was still here, he was going to make it," Burns said.