When Brandon Ramone Johnson’s friends and family light candles Sunday for his 18th birthday, they won’t go on a cake. Instead, the candles will be lit at a vigil memorializing the Crossland High School student, who was found fatally shot in a parking lot over the weekend in Prince George’s County.
Patrol officers found Johnson after they were called to a parking lot on Suitland Road at about 3:15 a.m Saturday, police said. He was declared dead at the scene.
Johnson didn’t have any identification with him, so detectives were not able to identify him until Sunday, said Lt. William Alexander, a spokesman for the Prince George’s police. As of Monday, detectives were working leads to determine suspects and motives.
Friends and relatives who gathered at Johnson’s home Monday struggled to find answers, even as those closest to him shared remembrances on his Twitter feed.
“He didn’t deserve it,” said Brittany Johnson, Brandon’s 25-year-old sister. “He had his whole life ahead of him, and it was cut short by a senseless act.”
She said her brother loved to sing in the shower and always had a big smile on his face.
This is the first homicide of a Prince George’s County student this academic year. During the last school year, half a dozen students died in a series of unrelated killings over a six-month period, stunning the community.
Students and staff at Crossland were shocked to learn of Johnson’s death.
“For those of you who knew Brandon, we ask that you remember and celebrate his athletic competitiveness, winning smile, confident attitude and friendly spirit,” Crossland’s principal, Moseley Fax, wrote in a letter to parents Monday.
Grief counselors were at the school to offer support to students.
“It was so sad and depressing today,” Starr Crump, 16, a junior, said while standing outside Crossland on Monday. Crump had a few classes with Johnson, including geometry.
Crump and other students remembered Johnson’s infectious smile.
“He never seemed upset,” said Taylah Cole, 16, a junior who knew Johnson for four years. “It’s just hard not seeing his smile.”
The students created three posters with Johnson’s name written across them. They signed their names, drew hearts and wrote “RIP.”
The students plan to give one to his family, Cole said.
“He was trying to do better,” Cole said. “That’s what a teacher said. The teacher said she asked him whether he was going to have the same problems as last year, and he said ‘No, I’m going to do my best.’ ”Johnson, an Atlanta Falcons fan, loved sports and used to play quarterback in a community football league, said family members who were gathered at his home Monday afternoon.
His aunt, Norma Whittington, said Johnson “was a good child” who “struggled in some areas.” But he “got his act together” and was planning to graduate in August after finishing summer school.
His older sister said Johnson had been looking forward to his senior prom and hoped to apply to college.
“We want some justice and some type of closure,” Brittany Johnson said. “We still can’t believe it.”
Police say anyone with information should call 1-866-411-TIPS.
Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this report.