One by one, they came up to the microphone, calling for peace, unity and harmony.
Then they marched, walking a mile to a clearing in the woods where 19-year-old Akinleye Osafa Warner lay dying weeks ago. With candles flickering and tears streaming, they prayed for Warner. They prayed for his family. Then they prayed for themselves.
That was the scene Monday night as Langley Park residents still stunned by Warner’s death rallied for the Guyanese immigrant, who police say died after three teens fatally stabbed him to “gain notoriety” in a gang.
“We need to come together and let the community know that we won’t tolerate this behavior,” said Bob Ross with the Prince George’s County NAACP. “It is senseless.”
The NAACP, Casa de Maryland and Langley Park residents held the candlelight vigil days after police announced the arrest of three middle-school-aged students charged with first-degree murder in Warner’s death.
Children carried hand-drawn posters covered in peace signs, rainbows and flowers as sunlight disappeared during the evening march. Warner’s stepmother, overcome with grief, fainted in the woods as family members set up a memorial in the grass where her stepson was slain.
“A senseless act of violence cost this man his life,” Prince George’s Police Chief Mark A. Magaw said. “Tonight we stand together.”
Several who spoke at the rally Monday worried about racial tensions between Hispanic residents and African Americans or recent African immigrants in Langley Park.
“The community has been split apart because of the crime here,” said Ivelaw Warner, the slain teen’s uncle. “The elements we find appearing in our midst, we need to weed them out.”
Ivelaw Warner said police are still looking for more people who may have been involved with or have information about his nephew’s slaying but worry witness are afraid to speak up. Langley Park, Ivelaw Warner said, is home to immigrants who may fear talking to authorities and residents who fear talking to police will result in retaliation. But speaking out and sharing information with police is also important to keep Langley Park safe, he said.
“The cops are not your enemy,” Ivelaw Warner said to anyone who can come forward with information about the case. Witnesses “can still stay in the shadows.”
Prince George’s County police said anyone with information about Akinleye Osafa Warner’s death can remain anonymous by calling 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).