Ronald Price Jr. had just gotten home from work and was going to the kitchen to grab a bite to eat. His 16-year-old stepson, Breon Austin, was headed out, pausing a moment to pick up his dropped cellphone.
Just then, Price said, a person wearing a mask burst through the partially opened back door and with few or no words began shooting. Price watched as Breon was struck and died in the hallway on Friday afternoon.
“The worst thing you could ever see is your child being killed in front of your face,” Price, 45, recalled Monday, struggling to relive the details of the shooting as relatives gathered on the front porch of the family home in the 700 block of Princeton Place NW.
Police, who confirmed Price’s account, are searching for the shooter and a vehicle of interest, described as a gray, four-door sedan with a sun roof and stickers on the driver’s side.
Two of Breon’s brothers and a sister could not say with certainty what led to the District’s 51st homicide of 2019, a shooting that pushed the pace of homicides to 34 percent above the same time in 2018.
Whatever dispute may have prompted the shooting, which appeared to be targeted, Breon’s brother, Derro Austin, 23, said, “It could have been handled differently.”
Said Price: “If there was some type of problem, they could have come to us.” He said Breon “was an all-around good kid, and the way he went out was unnecessary.”
Breon grew up in the two-story rowhouse in Park View, a block off Georgia Avenue, and had many siblings. Price, a contractor, said he married Breon’s mother, who works for Metro and was his high school sweetheart, seven years ago.
Breon attended Woodrow Wilson High School and, according to his brother, was most interested in two subjects — “gym and business.” He had played basketball in middle school but had lately focused on his second passion — fashion.
Breon had designed a logo that played off his love of money — a bank bag and a ‘$’ sign, and ordered T-shirts, sweatshirts, jackets and hoodies that he sold over the Internet and in his neighborhood. It was a step toward being a clothing designer.
“He came up from nothing and basically went to school and did right by his family,” said Austin, his brother, who manages a bicycle store. “At the end of the day, Bre was a good, humble kid. He wanted to do a lot of things. He had a vision and he was trying to make it big.”
Makhi Mitchell, 19, a senior at Wilson High, said he and his twin brother played basketball in middle school with Breon. They would buy snacks before taking the bus to school together, with Breon opting for a bag of Doritos or onion rings.
On the bus, Mitchell recalled, Breon would be the one cracking jokes, always jumping around with excitement. He said Breon cared about his schoolwork, and when his grades dropped, he would meet with teachers and work hard to bring them back up.
The Mitchell brothers left for Florida for a few years to play basketball, and when they returned to Wilson their senior year, Breon was the familiar face who enthusiastically welcomed them back. Breon, who was two years younger, no longer played on the basketball team but would attend the home games, cheering on his old teammates.
The last time Mitchell saw Breon was before spring break, when he ordered hoodies for himself and his brother.
“He was our little brother, he looked up to us,” Mitchell said. “He was just a good person. There was no negative energy — he was just positive. . . . He wanted to go places like the rest of us.”
Wilson’s principal, Kimberly Martin, said classmates shared memories of the fashionable and creative teen as school resumed Monday after spring break.
She said Breon gave pep talks to friends, encouraging them to achieve their goals. He checked on classmates to make sure they were okay, even if they weren’t his friends. One student described Breon more as a big brother than a classmate.
“Breon was the friend that could make people smile when they were feeling down and out, and Breon was that friend that would give anything to help someone in need,” Martin wrote in an email. The principal said a social worker described Breon as “definitely social, respectful and charismatic. . . . he had a charm about himself that makes him memorable.”