Charnice Milton had Asperger’s and a lifelong stutter that slowed her speech. She wasn’t the person you’d immediately expect asking the tough questions at community meetings or publicly challenging how local government officials spend their money.
But at 27, she was a contributing reporter for Capital Community News in the District and had already garnered a reputation for doing just that.
“She overcame much and excelled at everything she put her hand to,” her father, Kenneth McClenton, said Thursday night on his Internet radio program, “The Exceptional Conservative Show.”
Milton was fatally shot Wednesday at 9:40 p.m. at Good Hope Road and Alabama Avenue SE while returning home from an assignment covering a community meeting in Eastern Market. Police say she was switching buses at the time and was not the intended victim.
McClenton dedicated Thursday night’s program to his daughter, ticking off her accomplishments: She graduated at the top of her class in elementary school, graduated with honors from Bishop McNamara High School in Maryland, received a full scholarship to attend Ball State University and, in 2011, earned a master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University.
Despite her diagnosis, McClenton said, Milton had the chops to report for any major news outlet. If she had wanted to, he said, she could have reported on wars and Congress for such news outlets as Fox News or CNN.
“My baby could have covered all of that,” McClenton, who lived with Milton and her mother in Benning Heights in Ward 7, said on air. “But she had a passion for getting the truth across where she was.”
The weight of Milton’s killing seemed to deepen Friday as public officials and acquaintances on social media wrote tributes and remembrances to the woman who was lauded for contributing to the community she lived in. Police said they had no new leads in her shooting and were still trying to solve several other high-profile shooting deaths in the city over the past several days.
“As a reporter for Capital Community News on the local beat in Wards 6, 7, and 8, Ms. Milton played an important role in our city,” D.C. Council member David Grosso (I-At Large) said in a statement Friday. “The murder of a member of the press is deserving of special attention, but I also mourn the far too many other D.C. residents whose lives were taken by violence recently.”
Milton’s professors at Syracuse said that her goal had always been to return home and cover community news.
Aileen Gallagher, one of Milton’s professors at Syracuse, said she was always surprised that Milton wanted to be a journalist: She was a talented writer, but talking to strangers didn’t come easy to her. Gallagher, who kept up with Milton’s work on social media, said Milton is leaving behind a body of work of which she should be proud.
“Going up and talking to strangers, I think, at the beginning was frightening for her, but she really powered through,” Gallagher said. “I think the reporting part was very hard for her. She was in there every week talking to me about stories. . . . She never, ever gave up.”
Milton was deeply religious and sang at her church. Her father, who did not return e-mails Friday seeking comment, described her voice as “Grammy-winning.” She liked watching “Whose Line Is it Anyway?” and “Doctor Who.”
“She was a geek like her daddy. But she was my geek,” he said.
D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said Thursday that a man on a dirt bike aiming at someone else shot her. McClenton said on his radio show that the intended target used Milton as a human shield.
“She died in the arms of another man. We would wish there would be some romanticism behind that statement, but there isn’t,” McClenton said. “That man used my daughter as a human shield to protect himself from the bullet of another man. I am to never see my daughter again, but there are two cowards that are still alive.”
Her editor at Capital Community News, Andrew Lightman, said her loss reverberates beyond her family and friends and into the communities she covered.
“I think it’s a real loss not only for us and her family, but also the communities that she covered,” he said. “She was one of a handful of reporters across the District who was looking at the nuts and bolts of everyday life.”