The courtyard of the Clay Terrace Apartments in Northeast D.C. is a typical gathering spot on summer nights. On Monday evening, children ran around, people chatted, and some men played dominoes on a bench.
Then the masked men drove up.
They exited a black Infiniti, police said, and opened fire indiscriminately, showering so many shots into the courtyard that one resident said there were “too many to count.” The crowd of about 15 or 20 people scattered in terror.
Makiyah Wilson, a 10-year-old heading to an ice cream truck, was hit, apparently in the chest, residents said. Two witnesses said the girl’s mother held her child as she cried, again and again: “Please don’t let my baby die.”
It was to no avail. Makiyah lost her life later at the hospital, police said. A woman and three other men who were wounded were also being treated at local hospitals Tuesday as police continued searching for the shooters. The motive of the shooting, and whether the gunmen had targeted anyone, remained unclear.
Makiyah’s mother, Donnetta Wilson, cried as she talked about her daughter on Tuesday morning.
“She was an amazing little girl, an outstanding, bright 10-year-old,” Wilson said. “I just miss my daughter.”
“She wanted to conquer the world,” she said.
Of the gunmen, she said: “They’re cowards. I just want justice for my daughter.
In a year when homicides in the District are up 46 percent over 2017 and gunfire has become all too common in some neighborhoods, the killing of Makiyah stood out. She was described as a “cool little girl” who loved art and puzzles. She attended D.C. Scholars Public Charter School and was going to enter the fifth grade. She was well-known in the neighborhood and wore a princess crown in recent photos.
Mary C. Morgan, commissioner for Neighborhood Advisory Commission 7C02, which includes Clay Terrace, and other city officials expressed outrage at yet another tragedy.
“Are we going to keep letting this happen to our kids?” Morgan asked. “Are we going to keep letting them die? We’ve had enough of this.”
Makiyah’s death came during a moment of summer innocence.
Markeater Gay-Holroyd, 38, Makiyah’s aunt, said the girl had just gotten back from the pool with her 18-year-old sister when they noticed an ice cream truck. The aunt said Makiyah’s mother gave her money for a treat.
Just as Makiyah opened the door to go get ice cream , the gunshots came.
“She actually had a five-dollar bill in her hand,” Gay-Holroyd said.
Early Tuesday morning, yellow crime-scene tape was wrapped around the area in the 300 block of 53rd Street NE, where the shooting happened, and police detectives and officers were on the scene near the girl’s home.
Several neighbors said Makiyah was often seen outside playing with other neighborhood children.
According to police, the gunmen’s black Infiniti, which was missing a rear bumper, arrived at the public housing complex around 8 p.m. Police released surveillance video of the car pulling into a parking lot.
The Infiniti’s doors begin to pop open before the car comes to a stop, and four men emerge wearing sweatshirts with the hoods drawn up. All begin firing as soon as they exit the car, and one gunman sprints out of view. The men appear to fire in multiple directions before returning to the car and speeding off.
The shooting lasts less than 25 seconds.
Bullets tore through a storm door, a window, a Lexus and a metal door front, and did other damage, according to a police report. One resident described the scene as a “war zone.”
Sylvia Smith said she and her husband were home in their Clay Terrace apartment when her husband heard the eruption of gunfire.
Smith was worried because her 35-year-old son had gone to play dominoes with some friends.
Her husband ran to the courtyard and found a scene of horror: her son lying on his stomach on the ground, holding his chin in place. He had been shot in the face and part of his jaw was missing. Another bullet had blasted through one leg. Nearby, Makiyah was struggling for her life.
Smith’s son was transferred to a shock trauma center in Baltimore, where he underwent surgery on Tuesday morning. He has four children and was studying to be a Metro driver. Smith said it was unbelievable someone would shoot indiscriminately in an area where so many people gather.
“I think it’s crazy for people to do what they’re doing — shooting people for no reason at all. It’s pathetic,” she said. “They got nothing to do with their life. Trust and believe, the devil is having a good time.”
On Monday night, Assistant D.C. Police Chief Chanel Dickerson pleaded with city residents for help getting illegal guns off the streets, and Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) went to the scene and called for community members to phone a police tip line with any information. “#EnoughIsEnough,” she said on Twitter.
With Makiyah’s death, the District has seen 83 homicides in 2018 through Tuesday, up from 57 during the same time period the year before, according to city figures. Six teens killed in the District this year have been between the ages of 14 and 17. One day before Monday’s shooting, a 12-year-old boy was one of four people shot in the city. An 11-year-old girl was hit by gunfire on July 4.
Makiyah transferred to D.C. Scholars Public Charter School in September as a fourth grader. When Principal Jessica Hiltabidel first met Makiyah, she was singing and skipping through the hallway.
Hiltabidel told Makiyah to slow down and reminded her that she was supposed to be a role model for the younger children.
“But she looked at me and said, ‘Well, the 3-year-olds get to skip,’ ” Hiltabidel said. “That’s indicative of Makiyah’s spirit. She’s always a ball of energy and questioning things and wanting to skip.”
Hiltabidel said teachers remember Makiyah as funny, intellectually curious and a voracious reader, diving into books about the civil rights movement. On field trips, including one to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Makiyah was always the last to leave, lingering to ask more questions.
She was also a talented athlete, and the school was expecting her to play on the basketball team in fifth grade. Makiyah wanted to be a professional athlete, and Hiltabidel said she was excited when she learned that professional female football existed.
Eddie Green, 56, lives half a block away from the girl’s home. He said his 16-year-old and 4-year-old grandchildren played with Makiyah often. Green saw Makiyah on Sunday.
“She was asking me to get her something from the ice cream truck,” he said. “I was telling her how big she was getting and how smart she is. She was a sweetheart.”
He said he was out in his backyard when he heard the shots Monday. He snatched up his 4-year-old grandson, found cover for the boy, and then ran to the courtyard.
He saw Makiyah, in front of her porch on the ground, bleeding from her chest.
“The mom was holding her in her arms, crying, ‘No, baby, stay with me.’ It was very sad,” Green said. “I would like to see her smile, playing, running up and down the sidewalk again. That’s what I’d like to see.”
Jennifer Jenkins, Dana Hedgpeth and Martin Weil contributed to this report.