Whether she clapped along to a church choir, planned a Shaw community picnic to honor a fallen D.C. firefighter or took time to spoil her 12-year-old son, Tamara Gliss spent her days simply enjoying life and whatever the world had to offer.
“She would celebrate everything, every day,” the son, DeVontae Gliss, said in an interview. “She loved everybody.”
Now her only child and his three uncles and grandmother are mourning Gliss’s death. Gunfire killed the 31-year-old outside her apartment building on Sixth Street NW on the night of Memorial Day.
On Friday evening, more than 200 people packed the Kennedy Recreation Center basketball court, across the street from where Gliss was shot, for a candlelight vigil to support her family and remember her.
Her mother, Sandra Gliss, stood at the center of the gathering. Through a megaphone, she told the crowd that her only daughter, the eldest of four children, had gone on to a higher place because she had spent her life with deep faith in God and regularly attending church. Faith, Sandra Gliss said, will support the family as it plans the funeral, to be held next weekend.
“Everybody says, ‘How can you be so strong?’ I trust in God,” Gliss said. “My daughter left here saved. Not one person can say anything bad about my child.”
Still, Sandra Gliss had more earthly concerns. She delivered a forceful plea to the community not to retaliate but, rather, to help detectives to solve the crime.
“This violence has to stop. I would never thought it would be my child,” Gliss said. “I’m asking you as Tamara’s mother: Let the detectives handle this. I’m begging y’all: Let the police handle this.
“That’s my firstborn, that’s my daughter. That thing of ‘no snitching’ — see something, say something. . . . It’s not snitching.”
Police have not said anything publicly about a motive in the slaying or identified a possible assailant. But they are looking for a “person of interest” who was spotted riding away from the scene Monday night on a motorized dirt bike.
The killing happened amid an outburst of deadly violence across the District that claimed six lives in six days. The victims include a community news reporter who police said was waiting for a bus when she was shot by someone aiming at another person; and a motorist killed when a passenger opened fire from another vehicle on the Anacostia Freeway. The killings bring the District’s homicide count to 50, up from 45 at this time last year.
At Friday night’s vigil, Gliss’s pastor, Bishop Melvin G. Brown of Greater New Hope Baptist Church, acknowledged national attention on police use of deadly force. But he urged mourners to address dangers closer to home.
“Can we be real tonight?” Brown said. “Most of the violence, most of the killing comes from us killing other folk. Young black folk killing other young black folk. And it has to stop. It has to stop. It has to stop.”
At time of her death, Gliss was between jobs. She had worked for D.C. Public Schools as a behavior technician and as a supervisor for a food-service vendor, Sandra Gliss said. She was remembered as a true friend to many and someone who gave even to strangers.
A few weeks ago, when D.C. fire Lt. Kevin McRae died after fighting a high-rise blaze near her home, the lifelong Shaw resident called fire officials to offer a community cookout in his honor. She did not ask for a penny, a balloon or any other kind of donation, her family said.
Viola Bradford, an associate minister at New Bethel Baptist Church in Shaw, said she looked after Gliss and her brothers Ronald and Malik during an after-school program at New Bethel when they were children. Bradford remembered Gliss as a young lady with “a lot of mouth but a good heart” who fiercely looked after her younger brothers and respected discipline at home.
“Our community is at stake here,” Bradford said as she took a turn with the bullhorn at Kennedy Recreation Center. She urged those on the basketball court to hold hands and pray.
Some sobbed deeply. Others mumbled prayers for healing. Many stared blankly.
One mourner — DeVontae — felt the loss the most. The sixth-grader’s tears started as a trickle, then flowed in a stream as family members dabbed tissues under his eyes and hugged him tightly.
His grandmother said he has had rough moments and expects that that will continue as she becomes his caregiver. Still, after the vigil, the young man with long dreadlocks could smile broadly as he told a reporter about his mother.
She cheered at every football or basketball game. She supported him every time he sang at church. Almost everywhere she went, he went.
She was a stickler for homework and doled out punishment for incomplete assignments. Yet whenever there was enough money to pay the family’s bills, DeVontae would get whatever he wanted that his mother could afford, especially new shoes, especially the newest Jordans.
“She was an awesome mom,” DeVontae said.
Peter Hermann contributed to this report.