Mourners shuffled, crisscrossed and slid through the church in a joyful remembrance of the 34-year-old from Southeast, who had been gunned down just weeks before in the U Street nightlife hub in the District.
As services let out, a crowd lingered while Byrd’s family prepared to go to the cemetery for his burial.
Then, gunfire struck again.
One car of funeral-goers started shooting at another mere blocks away in a townhouse community near the church in Suitland, Md., leaving 24-year-old Mshairi Alkebular dead.
Byrd’s aunt Cassandra Riddick said her family is pained to see someone who attended her nephew’s funeral tragically gunned down. And although the shooting involved those who attended services, the incident had nothing to do with her nephew’s death, said Riddick, who is speaking out because she doesn’t want her nephew to be remembered for the violence spurred by others.
“It had nothing to do with us,” said Riddick, adding that Byrd’s family knew nothing of the shooting until after the burial. “No one came to avenge my nephew’s death. Unfortunately, that young man lost his life.”
Prince George’s County police arrested two men in Alkebular’s slaying and said the shooting was part of an ongoing clash between two groups from the District.
“Eric had nothing to do with this and Eric’s memory should not be marred by the actions of those outside the funeral,” Prince George’s County police spokeswoman Jennifer Donelan said. “Eric, from what we understand, got along with everyone and that’s why you saw so many people from different groups at his funeral. Unfortunately there were two groups feuding for a while from Washington, D.C.”
Byrd, whose case still is being investigated by D.C. police, was shot outside U Street Music Hall before 3 a.m. on July 20. About two weeks later, on Aug. 5, friends and family gathered in Suitland, Md., for his funeral.
As services wrapped up at around 1 p.m., a clash occurred in the parking lot that soon after sparked the shooting, Donelan said.
Blocks away from the church, Alkebular was driving a blue Toyota Corolla that was being tailed by a Dodge Charger, according to charging documents. Someone on the passenger side of the Charger stuck out a hand pointing a gun at the Corolla, police said.
Surveillance video shows the Charger making “multiple intentional vehicle maneuvers as if actively attempting to locate something or someone” before following Alkebular to a townhouse community on Suitland Road.
The Charger then pulled alongside the Corolla in a position that would allow the passenger to “shoot from the right passenger side” before “the passenger began firing in the vehicle,” charging documents said.
Passengers in the Corolla returned fire, police said
Xavier Justice, a member of the Deliverance Headquarters for All People, where Byrd’s service was held, said Byrd interacted with different communities that had unresolved conflicts.
“This situation is a part of a larger, more complex issue that requires bravery and resolve,” Justice said. “We have to confront the issues that cause communities to remain divided and individuals to become easily triggered and dysregulated so as to resort to gun violence before attempting diplomacy, compromise and healthy dispute resolution.”
Alkebular was hit several times before the Charger took off, police said.
Less than 10 minutes after police were called to the shooting scene, Tavone Hoes arrived at a hospital with a gunshot wound to his right wrist. Hoes said he was the passenger in a Dodge Charger in a funeral procession for “Boom” when he was shot, according to court documents.
“Mr. Hoes stated he was shot in his wrist due to the fact that he had his hand out the window of the Charger but denies having a gun,” according to charging documents.
Hoes, 26, was arrested and charged with murder, along with Gregory Sam, 25, who police say was driving the Charger.
Hoes is in custody in the District and is awaiting extradition to Prince George’s County, according to police and online court records. Sam is being held in the Prince George’s County detention center.
An attorney for Hoes did not respond to a request for comment. Thomas C. Mooney, an attorney for Sam, declined to comment beyond saying his client intends to plead not guilty.
Alkebular’s family declined to comment.
Alkebular’s mother is a family friend who has been in touch with Byrd’s father, Riddick said.
“My brother is very disappointed in what happened,” Riddick said. “I’m very sorry for this young man’s passing.”
Riddick said she is glad an arrest was made in the shooting that took place after the funeral and hopes her nephew’s homicide will be similarly resolved.
Byrd wanted to be a rapper and had made plans to perform at an arts festival before he was slain, Riddick said.
“My nephew was not a perfect young man, but he was a very nice young man,” Riddick said. “That is what I want people to remember. Whatever transpired that night he was killed, that is not how we were raised to grow up.”
Like Justice, Riddick decried the gun violence that took the lives of her nephew and Alkebular.
“There are too many guns, period,” Riddick said. “I’m from the old school where we handle conflict and we got back and then we were friends. We just need to do better. We can’t have babies dying for no reason.”