Her grandmother Tammy L. Carter doesn't know how to feel one moment to the next — sad or angry. She hasn't yet turned 50, and already she has lost her son and his daughter to gunfire. She took to Facebook to plead for justice and to say that Taiyania has "her wings now and daddy right there waiting on you."
Taiyania's aunt Erikka Carter called the killing of her brother in 2002 "the worst moment of my life." She recalls seeing the body of the young Dennis Carter Jr. splayed out on a street in the Carver Langston neighborhood in Northeast, the victim of what the family said was a robbery attempt.
After Taiyania was killed, she said: "We never thought we would have to go through this again. Our family is destroyed at this moment."
Taiyania was found shot about 3:10 p.m. in an apartment in the 1000 block of Mount Olivet Road, in the Ivy City neighborhood just off New York Avenue and near Gallaudet University.
Police detained a man seen near the apartment but did not file charges. After interviewing him, authorities said they were looking for a white 2017 Kia Sorento SUV with Maryland license plates. Police linked the shooting to a domestic incident but did not elaborate. There was no arrest in the killing as of Monday afternoon.
Ten people have been killed in the District so far this year, up from eight at this time in 2017. Half the 2018 homicide victims have been teenagers, ranging in age from 14 to 19.
Taiyania's grandmother said relatives have no idea what the teen was doing at the apartment on Mount Olivet Road, which is near where she lives with her mother. Tammy Carter said Taiyania, who has two older sisters, never mentioned a boyfriend.
The grandmother said Taiyania wanted to eventually open her own business to earn money to help support her mother, though the teen had no specifics.
"She was like any other 16-year-old," Tammy Carter said. "She was bubbly and bright and a very happy, jolly person. She loved to dance."
Carter said that the two used to bake cookies together and that her granddaughter loved her honey butter. "She would come right up and say, 'I ain't eating nobody else's food but my grandmother's,' " Carter said.
Relatives made sure Taiyania didn't forget her father. They told her stories about Dennis Carter, showed her photos and took her to the cemetery. One of the family pictures shows Taiyania kneeling behind her father's headstone.
Tammy Carter said her son would come home, wake baby Taiyania up so he could play with her and then get her back to sleep. Relatives called her "Mama" because she was a chubby image of her father, a nickname that stuck.
Taiyania was a sophomore at Sustainable Futures Public Charter School in Columbia Heights, which has 46 students and offers a second chance to students who have had trouble at other institutions. She had previously been at Maya Angelou Public Charter School in Northeast.
Lauren Bryant, the director of finance and operations at Sustainable Futures, described Taiyania as a pleasant student who had a "wonderful rapport" with classmates. Her nickname at the school was "Sunny."
Bryant said that earlier this year when the students prepped for a career fair, Taiyania dressed in a suit.
"She looked incredible and so professional and so businesslike," Bryant said. "Certainly that's one of our memories of her."
Erikka Carter said she last talked with her niece on Jan. 23, when Taiyania called to check in on her cousin, who was friends with a 12-year-old girl who had committed suicide at the SEED Public Charter School in Southeast.
Carter said the shooting of Taiyania brought back memories of her brother's death. She recalled dancing to go-go music at the top of a street that Friday night 16 years ago, a happy evening interrupted by the pops from a gun. Carter, 14 at the time, said she and others raced around the block. She saw her brother near some steps; his hat was in the street.
"The police would not let me through," she said.
Police said they identified a suspect in Dennis Carter's killing but that man was shot and killed in the fall of 2003, before authorities gathered enough evidence to arrest him. That killing remains unsolved.
Erikka Carter said that "this year has definitely not started off on a good note. But we're going to stay strong and stay together and get through this to the best of our ability."
She added, "We want answers, and we want justice."