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16-year-old accused of shooting fleeing teen in head at Wheaton Metro

‘A sad state of affairs,’ a Montgomery County judge said while lamenting area violence by teens

Tenneson Vaughn Leslie Jr., 18, was fatally shot on the Wheaton Metro platform on May 18. (YIP Photography)
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A 16-year-old accused of gunning down an 18-year-old on a Metro platform in Wheaton was ordered to be held without bond Thursday by a judge who lamented a scourge of teen violence in the D.C. region.

“This case is a sad state of affairs as to what’s going on,” Montgomery County District Judge Holly D. Reed said from the bench. “You have juveniles committing violent crimes with guns, killing one another. … This is very sad.”

Emmanuel L. Simmonds was arrested Wednesday and charged as an adult with second-degree murder and other counts in the May 18 death of Tenneson Vaughn Leslie Jr.

Leslie was shot in the head as he tried to run away, authorities said Thursday. The suspect, Simmonds, was aided by a 14-year-old relative, who was also at the station, according to police. The 14-year-old was charged as an accessory in the juvenile court system, authorities said.

In court Thursday, Simmonds’s attorney, Marisa Bakker, said the police filings so far reveal gaps in the case. “At this point, the allegations are just that. They are allegations,” she said.

A native of the Bahamas who came to Maryland about 10 years ago, Leslie loved to rap, dance and step even under the burden of earlier tragedies. His mother died in 2015 after a long illness; his dad was stabbed to death in 2019 by a man who broke into his home, according to family members and press accounts.

“He lost a lot,” Precious Taylor, an aunt, said over the phone from the Bahamas.

“He had a lot of dynamics going against him, but he was a good kid,” said Mark Joyeux, the director of the Maryland performing arts group Talent Group For Children who served as a mentor to Leslie. “Once you met him, you liked him.”

Just two weeks before his death — around the time of his late father’s birthday — Leslie got several dates tattooed on his neck, according to another aunt, Tasheka Graham. The first were birth dates and death dates of his parents. The final was his own birth date.

“They were always on his mind,” Graham said.

It was just before 6 p.m. on May 18 when an altercation erupted at the Metro train station in downtown Wheaton on an escalator leading down to the platform. It continued when the parties reached the bottom.

“The victim was running away,” Montgomery Assistant State’s Attorney Peter Larson said in court Thursday, “when the defendant fired the shot that ultimately killed him.”

Multiple victims wounded, two killed, in shootings in Maryland, D.C.

The entire episode, Larson said, was captured by surveillance video. And at first, police said, detectives just had descriptions of the young people they were watching: a physical fight on the escalator; a victim running away and falling to the ground; three to four others running toward a waiting train; one of those suspects — wearing a hooded sweatshirt bearing the words “Bad Habits But Good Intentions” — handing a gun to a young man wearing a white hoodie.

Investigators learned of previous police contacts with both suspects, according to court records, and were able to identify them as relatives — one 16, the other 14. The two were arrested Wednesday.

After court on Thursday, Montgomery’s top prosecutor said the comments by Holly about juveniles were spot on. “I think the judge was dead right,” Montgomery State’s Attorney John McCarthy said, citing a series of cases involving young offenders and weapons. “It’s not a secret that we are seizing handguns at a record level in this community.”

Graham, Leslie’s aunt, said his family members in Maryland and the Bahamas have been jolted twice this month — first learning Leslie had been shot and then learning the ages of the suspects. “I can’t understand it,” Graham said.

Her nephew might argue with people, she said, but he never turned violent. “Why would all of the sudden they shoot him — in the head, shoot to kill?”

He was 14 when he was charged with murder. He could be out of custody in less than a year.

Graham said Leslie lived with her and his grandmother in Maryland. “He moved in with my mother because it was best for him,” she said.

Leslie’s six siblings, whom he was close with, remained in the Bahamas. “Moving away from them was a little rocky at first,” Graham said.

But he spent more and more a time at the Kentland Community Center in Prince George’s County, playing basketball and other sports. He got involved in Joyeux’s performing arts group.

“He had the most infectious smile,” Joyeux said.

His grades fluctuated — acing tests when he applied himself and doing poorly when he didn’t, Joyeux said. “Very smart, and if he did the work he did great. He just wasn’t always motivated at school,” he said.

“He had a lot of opinions and he could be argumentative,” Joyeux said. “But he was never, never violent.”

In 2019, Leslie’s father — Tenneson Vaughn Leslie — and his father’s girlfriend were murdered in the Bahamas in their apartment, according to the Bahama Press.

After his father died, Leslie wrote a tribute to him on social media, according to a copy of the posting provided by Taylor, another aunt.

“Missing u pops,” he wrote. “U taught me how to always keep my head up … Save a spot up dere for me. Until then, ima continue your legacy wit dis name. I love you.”