A few weeks before he and his father were shot to death in their D.C. apartment, Ahkii Washington-Scruggs wrote a poem.
The 17-year-old Dunbar Senior High School student and linebacker on the varsity football team wrote about the hypocrisy of a divided city, and the affluent who do not travel in the desperate neighborhoods inhabited by people like him. He gave it to his coach.
“It brought tears to my eyes,” said Maurice Vaughn, who had known the teen since his freshman year.
In D.C., it’s nothing but people trying to take your life away
I’m from a city where it’s a blessing to see the age 20
Every day I hear out of town people say D.C. is so great
But in my head, I just say D.C. is full of hate
Ahkii and his father, Hugh Washington, 57, were among nine people found fatally shot in the District since Wednesday, a pace that has driven the city’s homicide count to 95, a 10 percent jump from last year at this time.
On Monday, D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham credited a flood of tips with helping authorities make an arrest on one of those cases — Thursday’s killing of 11-year-old Karon Brown. But the chief said he wished people would “come forward with that same passion” in other cases.
As of Tuesday afternoon, no arrests had been made in the eight other slayings.
Left to grieve are relatives and friends in nearly every quadrant of the District. Some of the victims had brushes with the criminal justice system; police said Karon was shot by an adult during a dispute with other children. Motives for most of the shootings remain unclear.
Two of the victims knew each other.
Jamal Bandy, 27, was killed Sunday night on Congress Street in Southeast in a spray of gunfire that police said damaged two cars and struck a home. Police did not say whether he was the intended target. He was an assistant coach for the nonprofit Woodland Tigers youth football league, in which Karon had played.
Bandy coached younger boys, but his squad and the one Karon played for often scrimmaged together. Their violent deaths two days apart have left Michael Zanders, the director of the Woodland Tigers Youth Sports and Educational Program, in disbelief.
He said Bandy was among a core group of community activists who joined him in expanding the program two years ago, and Bandy came to every practice and game. His 8-year-old son also played.
“He brought snacks, and made sure the kids had water and Gatorade,” Zanders said. “He was quiet and well-mannered.”
Zanders has run the league for 33 years, and he echoed a long refrain from D.C. police — that people are too quick to resolve disputes with guns. “The first thing that comes to their mind is to kill,” he said.
On Tuesday evening, friends, family and activists assembled for a vigil on the sports fields of Stanton Elementary School, where Karon had practiced with the Tigers and steps from where he was shot. It’s also the field where Bandy had coached.
People posted signs that read “Real men talk it out, cowards shoot it out” and “We Did Not Become Teachers to keep burying our students.”
Kathren Brown, Karon’s mother, broke down as she briefly addressed the crowd, telling them, “I’m just glad I knew him.”
Jay Brown, an organizer with Black Lives Matter, said he wants city officials to focus on root causes of violence. “As spontaneous and reckless as these shootings seem,” he said, “there’s a story behind every tragedy. And if there’s a story behind every tragedy, there’s a way to prevent it.”
Across the city in Northwest, another football team, the Dunbar Crimson Tide, was mourning the loss of Ahkii, the linebacker who wore the No. 26 jersey. The teenager, heading into his senior year, lived with his father in the 1100 block of Queen Street NE in Trinidad, a block from Gallaudet University.
Police said their bodies were found Friday inside their apartment. A police report says each had been shot in the head, though it is not clear when. Authorities have not provided a motive, but they said it does not appear related to a domestic dispute.
Meriam L. Washington, the 89-year-old mother of Hugh Washington and grandmother of Ahkii, said her son previously worked in construction but had become disabled. She said she last saw Ahkii a few days before he was killed when he visited her at the Northwest home where she has lived since 1961.
“He wanted to play football and he excelled in art,” Washington said of Ahkii. “We got together often. We talked about different things, him going to school. I would tell him how things were on the outside world, about how he shouldn’t be led into things, and that he needed to be a leader, not a follower.”
Washington said she did not know much about her grandson’s life in Trinidad and had no idea what could be behind the shootings.
His Dunbar coach, Vaughn, said Ahkii was a good football player who also had other pursuits, such as poetry, art and friends. “But when he came to play, he worked his butt off,” his coach said.
Vaughn has found himself reflecting on Ahkii’s words, which confront the city’s problems with violence, and his feelings about black men being unfairly targeted by police and labeled as drug users or dealers by others.
I’m from a place where white people see a crackhead and think that how us young black kids will be
I just say to myself that won’t be us
Perry Stein contributed to this report.