Police arrested a suspect last week, but a motive remained elusive, leaving those who knew the 22-year-old victim wondering what happened to a young man who seemed full of promise and excelled in school despite a tough life at home.
“This is not the end we predicted for Davane,” said his language arts and social studies teacher, Rashid Darden, who works at YouthBuild Public Charter School, from which Williams graduated last year. It is an alternative school in Northwest for people ages 16 to 24 that emphasizes trades such as construction.
“There are students who live through tragic lives,” Darden said. “We really never saw this coming for him.”
The mayor and police chief visited the scene the next day and led a community walk. But in a city struggling with guns and violence that seems to make little sense even when motives are known, his death on a corner known for violence attracted little attention as other killings occurred.
Tyree Irving, 22, of Northeast, has been charged with first-degree murder while armed. He has been ordered detained until a hearing March 12. His attorney did not respond to an interview request. Court documents say he was known on the street as “Wink” or “We.”
In addition to the murder case, Irving also was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon. Prosecutors say he opened fire at the same corner where Williams was shot — New York Avenue and North Capitol Street — about a month after the killing. Police said one bullet went through the window of Big Ben liquor store and another pierced the windshield of an Audi, wounding a fourth-grade math teacher who was stopped at a red light.
The teacher, Quintin Nwaebo, 28, was driving home with lunch on Presidents’ Day when the bullet hit his steering wheel, sliced off part of his pinky and then lodged in his cheek, where it will remain until surgery this month. He plans to return to his classroom Monday at Statesmen College Preparatory Academy for Boys Public Charter School in Southeast. He said his young students there already know he was wounded by gunfire.
He said he hasn’t yet thought about what he will tell them. “I think letting them see that I’m okay will help ease the situation a bit,” he said in an interview. He had been interviewed earlier by WRC-TV.
Irving spent a year in jail after being convicted of illegally possessing a firearm in 2015. While on supervised release in that case, court records show he was arrested in connection with burglaries at two District schools from which computers were taken. Authorities said they discovered a gun inside a stolen van used in those incidents.
He pleaded guilty to burglary in 2017 and was sentenced to two years in prison. He was released Nov. 27, 2018, seven weeks before Williams was killed. Court documents make it appear Williams was targeted and shot repeatedly even after he fell to the sidewalk in front of the Tyler House apartments.
But the arrest affidavit only hints at a possible motive, quoting one witness telling police he overheard people saying Williams “shouldn’t have committed the robbery.” That same witness provided police with a nickname, “Wink.” No other details of a motive were divulged, and no other reference to a robbery was made.
Relatives of Williams could not be reached; his teacher said his mother lives in Jamaica, where the victim is originally from, and his father lives in Florida. He came to the District in 2015 after living in Florida, New York and elsewhere, according to Darden, his teacher, and Williams’s social media posts. he also had lived with his grandmother.
“My feeling is he was so connected to the school because the school at the time was the most consistent thing in his life,” Darden said.
Williams had completed a work requirement by spending last summer landscaping the school’s front yard, tending to the garden and painting classrooms. Darden said Williams returned to the school every week for career counseling, and he always stopped to chat with his teachers.
“He was a bright, positive, community-engaged young man,” Darden said.
Darden said he didn’t know whether Williams had found his way into a jam outside of school. “I never worried that he was in trouble,” he said. Williams had no adult criminal record.
Darden spoke at Williams’s funeral about how Williams struggled with his nerves to get his high school equivalency diploma and finally walk across a graduation stage.