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Police arrest suspect in fatal shooting during flag football game on Capitol Hill

Authorities say the victim was shot moments after catching the winning touching pass

Aaron "Ace" Wiggins was fatally shot after a pickup game in Southeast in October. (Courtesy of Dana Wiggins)
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A man playing flag football on Capitol Hill in October fatally shot an opponent who caught the winning touchdown pass in a pickup game marred by tension and trash talk, according to court documents filed in connection with an arrest police made Tuesday.

The victim, 26-year-old Aaron “Ace” Wiggins, had just walked off the dark field behind Watkins Elementary School at 400 12th St. SE when he was repeatedly shot in front of players and spectators.

“It was not supposed to go down like that,” one man who had accompanied the suspect to the game told a detective, according to an arrest affidavit filed in court. “It was just supposed to be a game.”

The D.C.-area’s flag football community has provided a refuge for players. A fatal shooting left them stunned.

Police identified the suspect as Antonio C. Hawley, 18, of Southeast Washington and said he was charged with first-degree murder while armed. A D.C. Superior Court judge on Wednesday ordered Hawley detained and set a court date for Feb. 11.

Hawley’s attorney asked D.C. Superior Court Judge Sean C. Staples to “view with suspicion” the statements police attributed to certain witnesses, saying they “change their stories as they’re being interviewed by the detectives.”

But the judge countered that some witnesses provided statements that “clearly indicate that the defendant was the shooter in this case.”

The shooting shocked participants in the flag football community, a fixture in the D.C. area for decades. It also brought renewed attention to crime on Capitol Hill and to gun violence in the District, where this year homicides have surpassed 200 for the first time since 2003.

The apparent motive also fit a troubling pattern for police who say too many arguments over trivial matters are ending in gunfire. Police also said they ran into roadblocks during the investigation as players and others refused to cooperate; D.C. Police Cmdr. Ralph McLean, who heads the 1st District, told residents at a community meeting that detectives would go through names on team rosters “one by one” to identify a suspect.

Some witnesses told police that after Wiggins scored the touchdown, he began trash talking, and one said he threw the ball at an opposing player. That person said participants stepped in to calm tensions. But the shooting unfolded moments later.

Wiggins had been playing on a team called Flight, though he had recently transferred from the Greys, for which Hawley played. Efforts to reach coaches for both teams on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

The victim’s mother, Dana Wiggins, said her son loved football from time he was 5 years old and made the junior varsity team at Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Md., his freshman year.

Years later, he directed his passion and skills to flag football, and was killed just a few months after starting.

“The love of his life, and to lose his life playing, it’s just heartbreaking,” Dana Wiggins said. “When I heard the story, it’s like, I couldn’t accept that.”

She said that her son, who had recently moved to the District from Montgomery County, had switched teams a week before he was shot and that players on his old team “did have some bad feelings towards that.”

Dana Wiggins said the pickup game was informal, outside the league schedule, and it was unclear whether coaches were there. “The players just kind of gathered,” she said. “It was just supposed to be fun, relaxing, an outlet that turned into my son’s death.”

The shooting occurred just off the football field and after overhead lights went out about 9:45 p.m. The game involved teams that participate in a league. A city official has said the teams did not have a permit to use the field, run by the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation.

According to the arrest affidavit, Hawley told police he played cornerback in the game but denied having issues with Wiggins or anyone else.

“Mr. Hawley advised that during the game there was no tension,” and he described play as “not being aggressive,” the affidavit says. Police said the suspect “recalled that his team scored on the first play and that after that there was scoring back and forth between both teams.” The affidavit says he told police Wiggins was “torching” his team “but denied hearing Ace talking trash.”

After the game ended and the lights had gone out, witnesses said, Wiggins walked off the field and to his gym bag, near the entrance.

A witness told police that Hawley went to a bag as well, allegedly took out a dark-colored handgun and walked over to Wiggins, firing as he approached. Police said a dozen of the 17 bullets fired struck Wiggins.

Another witness told police that after the gunman shot Wiggins, he “stood over [the] top of him and continuously shot the decedent.”

Dana Wiggins said her son is survived by two younger brothers and a younger sister, all of whom he used to take to the park to play football or be by a lake. She thought an arrest would help ease their pain but can’t get over the suspect being so young.

His younger siblings, she said, don’t understand. “Their brother went to play football and he’s not here,” she said, adding that a gunman “killed my son over words.”