Police identified the three men arrested as Desmond Nkwocha, 21, and Mark Nkwocha, 23, who are brothers from Lanham, and 23-year-old George Shamman of East Riverdale. They are being held at the county jail on charges of attempted first-degree murder, second-degree murder and weapons offenses, police said.
In charging documents, detectives outlined the details of their investigation, which used interviews with the suspects, their cellphone data and jail call logs to identify the gun and the car that were used in the shooting and allegedly place the men at the scene of the ambush.
Residents of the Landover apartment complex in the 1600 block of Brightseat Road and members of PJ’s family, including his mother, Tiffani Evans, told police they were gathered on an outside patio at about 8:20 p.m. on Aug. 24 when a white Mercedes with tinted windows and dark wheels stopped in the parking lot. A man stepped out of the car and started shooting, witnesses told police.
The adults dropped to the ground, and Evans screamed to grab the children, who were inside. But PJ was already slumped over at the living room table.
One of those witnesses, who lives in the apartment where PJ was killed, told police that the night before the shooting in Landover, he had fired a gun at one of the suspects, Mark Nkwocha — with whom he had an ongoing dispute, investigators said in charging documents.
After the initial shooting the night before PJ’s killing, Mark Nkwocha was arrested by Bladensburg police and accused of fleeing the scene of an accident, according to the charging documents. Court records show he was charged with marijuana-related offenses shortly after the Bladensburg arrest.
One day later — hours before PJ was killed — Mark Nkwocha called Shamman from jail and Shamman agreed to pick him up, according to call logs obtained by police detailed in court documents. Surveillance video shows a white Mercedes-Benz, owned by Shamman, later leaving the jail parking lot, police said.
Police then used cellphone location data to place the Nkwocha brothers and Shamman at the Landover apartment at the time of the shooting, according to the charging documents.
At a news conference Thursday, Prince George’s County Police Chief Malik Aziz would not say which man detectives believe pulled the trigger. Aziz praised the witnesses and the community for providing police “valuable” information and intelligence that allowed detectives to “piece together a lot of the data.”
Attorneys for the men could not be reached or declined to comment.
The mother of Desmond and Mark Nkwocha declined to comment on the case in a text message to a reporter.
“My God will see them through,” she said.
Winnifred Shamman, the sister of George Shamman, said that the Nkwochas asked her brother for a ride that August night but did not tell him they had plans to shoot anyone.
“He is not a bad person,” she said of her brother. “He likes being around friends, and he chose the wrong people to be around.”
Winnifred Shamman said she had raised her brother with their father because their mother lives in Africa. He had never been in trouble with the law for more than a traffic ticket, she said. He told her that he was working a job as a coronavirus tester.
“If my brother knew they were going to do this, he would never ever have said yes to that,” she said. “My family is devastated. I am so sorry for the loss of the 8-year-old boy.”
George Shamman does not appear to have a criminal arrest record in Maryland, according to state records online, but Desmond Nkwocha was arrested twice in 2020 on assault and gun charges and released both times. Court records also indicate he was sentenced to probation for a handgun charge in 2018 and was scheduled for violation hearings at least five times in the case since October 2020. Mark Nkwocha was released from jail just hours before the shooting that killed PJ, according to court records.
County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks (D) joined Aziz and the boy’s mother Thursday at the news conference, where they discussed gun violence in the county — which has spiked during the pandemic, including among young people.
“There is nothing like the death of a child that impacts us more,” Alsobrooks said. “Senseless is a word that we’re tired of hearing. It’s really beyond that point.”
When asked about the arrest record of Desmond Nkwocha, both the chief and the county executive did not directly address his two releases last spring. Alsobrooks said it was the police department’s job to investigate and make arrests, and her office’s job to create resources and programming that reduce gun violence.
After the news conference, State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy (D) said in a statement that her office requested Desmond Nkwocha be held without bond in both gun arrests. The court, she said, released him on a monetary bond.
Evans, PJ’s mother, focused on the investigation of her son’s death and thanked the police department for its work.
“Long live PJ,” she said. “Long live 21.”
The number, she explained, was her son’s favorite — the one he wore on his youth football uniform. She said his killing was solved in 21 days, in the year 2021.
“He’s gonna live [on],” she said. “No doubt, he is gonna live.”
The night of the shooting, he was celebrating a winning football scrimmage and enjoying “Taco Tuesday” with his family.
At the news conference, PJ’s mother called the detectives who worked on her son’s case “family now” and said the chief personally delivered her the news of the arrests. He also gave her a gift — the handcuffs that were placed on one of the men arrested.
“They came and did their job and got justice for my kid,” she said. “I’m going to love and support them forever.”
She also had a message for the young people in the county.
“Don’t be a follower,” she said. “There’s a lot of followers out there. A lot of coward followers out there.”
Clarence Williams and Alice Crites contributed to this report.