A 17-year-old Park View High School sophomore was fatally shot Friday morning as he walked to his bus stop, and fellow students spent the day on lockdown as authorities investigated.
Danny Centeno-Miranda, who fled violence and poverty in his native El Salvador in 2013 to live with relatives in Virginia, was about a mile from the Loudoun County school when he was shot. Loudoun sheriff’s officials said they believe that the assailants knew Danny but did not offer details. They were searching for suspects into the evening.
The slaying, which came just five days into the school year, shocked students and parents. One student said that grieving classmates cried in the guidance counseling office, and school officials said that some students were interviewed by sheriff’s investigators. On Twitter, many of the victim’s acquaintances as well as other students posted tributes to the teen, creating a hashtag in his honor.
“A freshman high schooler [lost] his life this morning please a prayer for his family && fellow classmates #ripdannycenteno #PVHS,” tweeted DeJon Griffin, who coaches the school’s freshman volleyball team.
Park View students said the slaying is particularly painful for a community that has dealt with other deaths in recent years. In early 2013, a popular football player was fatally shot after he mistakenly entered the wrong home after a night out, apparently thinking that it was his own. A few months before that, a veteran teacher died suddenly of a heart attack.
Park View senior Alyssa Glasgow, 17, said students have pulled together after each of those deaths. “Park View is a great school. We aren’t a school full of bullies or fights, we’re a school full of tragedy and misfortune,” she wrote in an e-mail to The Washington Post.
Danny’s uncle, Porfirio Baires, who welcomed the teenager into his Sterling townhouse, said the boy’s parents sent him north to the Texas border in 2013 at the age of 15. Danny was detained there, but Baires said that authorities contacted him and that Danny was flown to Northern Virginia to stay with him and his wife.
“I just don’t understand it,” Baires said. “He never had any problems.”
Danny spent much of his time going back and forth between school and his job at Benihana at the Dulles Town Center, where he worked in the evenings and on weekends. His uncle said he didn’t have time to make too many friends and was studious.
“It hurts us so bad, because he was just a boy,” Baires said. “We adopted him — he was like our son.”
The incident happened about 8:30 a.m. when 911 was called about multiple gunshots being fired near East Cornell Drive and North Duke Drive, in Danny’s neighborhood.
Neighbor Maricela Alfaro said she was in her kitchen making breakfast for her youngest child when she heard three gunshots outside her condominium. High-school age-children, who had been waiting for a school bus, ran to hide in the enclosed neighborhood of townhouses, condos and apartments, she said.
When law enforcement officers arrived, they found Danny. He was taken to a hospital, where he died.
In addition to Park View, several nearby schools — including Sterling Middle, Forest Grove Elementary, Guilford Elementary, Rolling Ridge Elementary, Sterling Elementary and Sully Elementary — were put on alert after the shooting.
After the school day ended, Park View students described remaining in their first period classes all day with little sense as to what was happening as word of the shooting spread through social media and text messages.
Allen Penaflor, a 16-year-old junior from Sterling, said he was in lockdown in his morning English class for the entire school day. The blinds in the classroom were drawn, and paper was taped to the windows, part of the protocol for lockdowns. The teacher conducted class for about 90 minutes — the normal duration — and then students did little for the remainder of the day other than talk and look at their phones.
Cynthia Reyes, 16, said she met Danny a few months ago when they both started working at Benihana. She was a host, she said, and he was a busboy.
“He was quiet, very quiet,” she said. He was particularly shy in English, she said, so she spoke with him almost exclusively in Spanish. Reyes said that she had recently run into Danny at Chuck E. Cheese’s on their day off. He had been with his girlfriend, with whom he was “insanely” in love, she said.
Last year, he was the “chambelán,” or chaperon, for a friend who was having her quinceañera, a ceremony for a girl’s 15th birthday that is celebrated in many Latin American cultures.
“Danny was humble, beautiful, quiet,” said his aunt, Flor Miranda Baires, adding that he enjoyed drawing and writing poetry. He often played soccer in the street with the younger neighborhood kids. Danny told his family that he wanted to join the Navy one day.
Dana Hedgpeth, Tom Jackman and Ian Shapira contributed to this report.