The deaths 200 miles and a day apart of Marcus Williams, 36, and his mother, Janet Louise Perry Williams, 62, forced a double funeral that had been scheduled for Saturday at Fork Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, outside Henderson, a rural town along Interstate 85 less than an hour’s drive from the state capital.
“It’s hard to understand,” said Paul Crews Jr., part-owner of Davis-Royster Funeral Service, which is taking care of arrangements. Crews knew Marcus Williams in high school; his aunt knows the elder Williams.
“We’ve done double funerals before, but they’re usually both natural causes,” Crews said. “One of these deaths was quite sudden. It’s a lot different. . . . We’ve had people calling from all over, old classmates, old friends.”
The elder Williams, 64, who works at a factory assembling truck parts, spent the past week making arrangements. He said his wife had suffered a stroke several years ago, recently became seriously ill and was in hospice care. He had to tear himself away from her bedside after his son was killed and then turn around and drive back to North Carolina when he learned she had died.
Marcus Williams was shot about 12:40 p.m. at the Potomac Gardens public housing complex near Capitol Hill. He worked for the D.C. Housing Authority and police said he was assaulted as he ate lunch while sitting in his car, parked in the 1200 block of I Street SE.
Surveillance video made public by police shows that Williams was in the passenger seat and had the door open into the street when a man approached and pointed a gun at him with two outstretched arms. Williams got out, with his right arm up, and the two appear to scuffle. Williams pushed off his attacker and tried to escape by running around the front of the car. The assailant chased as Williams ran into the courtyard of the housing complex.
Police said it is there that he was shot in the chest.
No arrest has been made.
The fatal daylight shooting was one of eight killings in five days in the District, a spate that pushed the homicide count to 8 percent above last year’s pace and prompted the mayor and police chief to order a fall crime initiative, targeting hard-hit areas of the District.
Marcus Williams grew up in Henderson, N.C., a town of about 15,000 north of Raleigh, where he attended high school and “was a gifted athlete,” according to the death notice. He had two brothers who live in the D.C. area and a sister who lives in Fayetteville, N.C. His mother, Janet, worked for Revlon before she became ill.
The victim moved to Maryland after he was released from prison in November 2017, serving time for a federal drug conviction in Virginia. D.C. police said their investigation into his killing shows no connection to drugs or to that case.
At first, Marcus Williams stayed with his uncle Bobby Williams, a retired elementary school teacher and church deacon who lives in Fort Washington, Md. The 71-year-old said he raised two daughters and thought of his nephew “as the son I never had.” Marcus Williams joined his uncle’s church, Paramount Baptist in Southeast Washington, attended Sunday school and was baptized.
He worked as a groundskeeper at Potomac Gardens, first for a private company, then for the housing authority when the agency took over the contract. He drove his older-model silver Mercedes to the job site every day, and when his shift was done, he drove to Virginia to work his second job, an overnight stocker at Harris Teeter.
The younger Williams was not married and had no children, but Bobby Williams said he had a girlfriend and had just moved into his own apartment in Southeast.
“He was just a kind young man,” Bobby Williams said. “He was a country boy in a big city. He came here and didn’t get into any kind of mischief. He worked one job, then another, and on Sundays, he went to church. . . . He loved everyone, and everyone he came in contact with loved him.”
The uncle said many young men are arrogant, with a “mad against the world” attitude. “He wasn’t like that,” Bobby Williams said. “He realized he had to work to survive. He liked nice things, tennis shoes and clothes, and he spent the money he earned on himself.”
Bobby Williams would sometimes drive into the District and have lunch with his nephew at Potomac Gardens. The morning before he was killed, Marcus Williams spoke with his uncle by phone and told him he was planning to go to North Carolina to visit his mother.
“I told him to drive carefully,” Bobby Williams recalled.
“He said, ‘Okay, Unc.’ ”
That was a Thursday.
He was supposed to make the trip Saturday.
“He never made it,” his uncle said.