William Tewelow wanted to strengthen his relationship with his stepson Artem Ziberov, so Tewelow turned to Scouting.
Ziberov, 18, excelled and became an Eagle Scout, the organization’s highest achievement, in December 2015. Tewelow, a year ago, stopped calling Ziberov his stepson.
“I felt like it was a constant reminder that he wasn’t my real son, but he earned my respect, and I loved and cared for him as my own son,” Tewelow told hundreds mourners gathered to remember Ziberov, who was killed Monday in a barrage of gunfire while in a parked car hours before his high school graduation, along with Shadi Adi Najjar, 17.
“We are hurting, deeply so, and we are angry,” Tewelow said beside his son’s gray casket at the Neelsville Presbyterian Church in Germantown, Md. “Angry at this senseless act of violence that extinguished two lives.”
On Monday night, about 11 p.m., Najjar was behind the wheel of a parked Honda along Gallery Court, a cul-de-sac in Montgomery Village. Seated next to him was Ziberov. Police found them dead in the still-running Honda. They said more than 22 shots were fired.
Montgomery County police have made no arrests and have not released any more information. On Wednesday, Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said detectives were pursuing many leads, and he asked anyone with information about the case or the victims to contact his department.
Neither Manger nor other police officials would say why the teenagers may have been at that location, which was about seven miles from their homes. Nor would they speculate about the motive or how many assailants attacked the teens.
The Rev. Peter DellaSantina implored the group of mourners to report any rumor or information they may have about the incident.
“This coldblooded murder, this dark violence, came down on two fine young men,” DellaSantina said. “And in the void that was left, unspeakable grief, mind-numbing shock, that comes in waves.”
Ziberov’s birthday was Thursday. Najjar’s parents sat directly behind Tewelow and his wife, Yulia, during Ziberov’s memorial service.
Hundreds of classmates, teachers, fellow Scouts and members of Najjar’s mosque joined Ziberov’s family Saturday afternoon. Many described Ziberov as an intelligent teenager who was introverted but a leader, who was also humorous and compassionate to those around him.
Ziberov was an AP Scholar with honors, a National Honor Society member and a President’s Education Award recipient. His Scout uniform, graduation gown, awards and yearbook were on display at his memorial. There was also a photo of him dressed in a prom suit with a red bow tie, with his parents.
He excelled at Scouting and grew close to many of his fellow Scouts. Several of them carried Ziberov’s casket from a chapel where the family held the visitation to the sanctuary where the memorial was held.
His former principal at Northwest High School, Jimmy D’Andrea, told the group that Ziberov would write “the one and only Artem” at the top of all his school work.
Alejandra Tyma, 17, said in an interview that she often studied for her psychology exams with Ziberov during lunch. If she was having a bad day, Alejandra said he was often the one who would make her laugh.
Jessica Nguyen, 17, said she had several classes with Ziberov, beginning in their freshman year. She and Ziberov were set to attend the University of Maryland in the fall. Jessica said they would often have deep conversations about the meaning of life and their futures.
“This wasn’t supposed to happen,” said Jessica, pink roses in hand.
The two teens had been at Ziberov’s home Monday before saying they were leaving to meet friends, Ziberov’s mother told The Washington Post last week.
Tewelow said many people have speculated on possible motives in the killing.
But, he suggested, all the possibilities had one big thing in common.
“All of those are nothing more than evil by a different name,” he said.
He charged those remembering Ziberov to “be a light and carry the torch that Artem can no longer.”