Sheila Lucas raised a family of six as a single mother, on the salary of an assistant nurse. Then she adopted four more children. She was shot and wounded while sitting on a porch about three decades ago. Later, diabetes nearly took her life. She survived covid-19.

Lucas had been a fighter for most of her 71 years, always ready to protect her ever-growing family. And that’s what she was doing when she was shot and killed Saturday night in Southeast Washington, according to her son, Robert H. Alston Jr.

“You weren’t going to mess with one of her children without hearing from her,” Alston said Monday.

Alston said his mother was shot while trying to protect one of her many grandchildren, who had been jumped by another woman in the 1600 block of Savannah Street SE, near Congress Heights. She also was trying to get her great-grandchildren away from the dispute.

Alston said Lucas stepped between the arguing women, “and somebody began shooting and a bullet hit my mother in the head.”

Alston said the granddaughter, who is in her early 30s, did not know the woman who jumped her. Police said Monday that they had not made an arrest.

“It’s not like we got an opportunity to say goodbye or to see her,” said Alston, 51, who is the pastor at Thankful Baptist Church near Lincoln Park in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. “Somebody just took her from us at the spur of the moment. She didn’t do anything. She didn’t bother anybody.”

Lucas was one of several people shot — three fatally — since Friday in the District. Homicides in the city are about even with last year, which set a decade high. A 26-year-old man was fatally shot on Gainesville Street in Southeast on Sunday, and an 18-year-old man was killed on East Capitol Street in Northeast on Friday.

Alston said his mother will be remembered as a person who spoke her mind. “If she didn’t like you, she told you she didn’t like you,” he said. “She told you that because she loved you. My mom was a fighter, a trooper, a mother, a lover. We could always count on our mom to be at our side.”

Lucas raised six children in a rowhouse on Irvin Street in Columbia Heights in Northwest. Later, she moved to Southeast and adopted four children. After working as a nurse, she got a job helping people with intellectual challenges.

Alston said he was just 2 years old when his father, Robert H. Alston Sr., who worked at a convenience store, was shot and killed, possibly during a robbery. His mother raised the family by herself.

“She challenged me to be the young man that I am,” said Alston, who has a wife and three children and has worked in the District’s parks and recreation department and public schools. “She encouraged me to always push forward, to never care what anybody else thought.”

Her children called Lucas “P Charms” — the letters of “charms” correspond to the first letters of the first names of her six children. Growing up, Lucas made clear there would be no excuses, no circumstance that could be used as a crutch.

She struggled but never left her family wanting.

“She made sure we weren’t going to get into trouble,” her son said. “She made sure we weren’t going to be running from the police. She had the fear of God in her and would not let us make a mistake. We were more afraid of her than of the police or a teacher.”

All of her children hold professional jobs: pastor, cafeteria manager, security, entrepreneur, education, medical department at Veterans Affairs hospital. “Our mom was not going to let any of us fail,” Alston said.

Alston, who was installed in 2018 as the eighth pastor of Thankful Baptist Church, said he has been preaching the theme of forgiveness for the past three weeks.

“I think God was preparing me for what was coming today,” he said. “I forgive the person who did the shooting.”

He described violence in cities as “spiritual warfare” and said he is not seeking revenge, but he does want justice.

Alston said he wants the shooter “to turn himself in or the police to apprehend the person who did this senseless act.”

He recalled his mother fighting through the death of his father, then the shooting that injured her and then diabetes. Most recently, she got through covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, just fine.

But from a bullet fired on Savannah Street, “unfortunately, this time she just didn’t recover.”

Said the grieving son: “Now I lost my queen. Not my mom. My queen.”