It was the first night Donovan Carter had been cut loose to patrol the beat on his own. As a Prince George’s police officer for less than a year, he didn’t know exactly what to expect on May 28, 1995. But what he saw, he said, has stayed with him throughout his career in law enforcement.

Around 10 p.m. the Sunday before Memorial Day, Carter answered a call for shots fired in Temple Hills. He rushed to the Heather Hill Apartments on Fisher Road. There he found 25-year-old Tasha Monique Williams critically wounded, covered in blood and unable to speak. Williams was laying on her side in the wet grass with her back against the building.

“I could see her hands were around her stomach,” Carter recalled. “I looked and said, ‘Oh my, God. She’s pregnant.’ It shot waves through my body. I can’t believe this was my first scene ever coming up on my own.”

Seeing Williams hit Carter hard. His own wife was about four months pregnant at the time, waiting for him to come home to her and their 1-year-old daughter.

“Hold on! The ambulance is coming!” Carter remembered telling Williams with tears welling up in his eyes.

Television and highly-publicized advances in DNA analysis might lead you to believe that solving old crimes is all about the science lab. But Sergeant Bernard Nelson of the Prince George’s County, Md. “Cold Case Unit" will tell you that real life is a lot trickier. (Brad Horn/The Washington Post)

As a helicopter hovered overhead and his colleagues rushed to search for the person who shot Williams, Carter stayed by her side. He wanted to keep her awake, even though he knew she could not speak. He wanted to make it clear to her that someone was out there with her, trying to protect her.

“‘Dear! Sweetheart! Can you hear me?’” he kept asking her.

In minutes, an ambulance arrived. It carried Williams to a waiting helicopter that flew her to Prince George’s Hospital Center. Carter followed, wondering the whole time whether she and her baby would live.

Hours later, the news was bittersweet. Tyshon Malik Williams was born shortly after midnight. But his mother, doctors said, would not make it.

“I was thanking God that the baby made it,” Carter said. But “it was a double-edged sword.

When he arrived home, more tears came to his eyes as he told his wife the story. Carter, now a corporal who works in the department’s Community Oriented Police division, marks his 20th year as a Prince George’s County police officer in August.

After all these years, police are still searching for the person who fatally shot Williams. It’s case that haunts her family who want answers, and it’s a case Carter said he will never forget.

Answering that first call alone “affected me pretty much all my career,” said Carter, whose two daughters are now 19 and 20. “I go home and hug my kids every day. They get a hug and a kiss and I tell them I love them.”

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