Keyonna McDuffie, right, speaks at a Thursday vigil for Delonta Alexander, the father of her 5-year-old son. Next to her, Delonta’s mother, Latese Alexander (center), and Tamara Coln (left) comfort two of Delonta Alexander’s children. (Clarence Williams/The Washington Post)

Latese Alexander stood in disbelief as she held a plastic LED candle in the Emmanuel Baptist Church parking lot in the District one recent night, still puzzled and in shock as she awaited the start of a vigil for her 34-year-old son, Delonta.

There under the parking lot’s bright floodlights, 100 yards from the scene of her son’s murder, she waited for her grandchildren — Delonta Alexander’s 10-year-old daughter and two sons, ages 5 and 4 — to arrive. All the while, she had no idea how to proceed, how to say goodbye to the respectful son who died in the Woodland community he often visited.

“I’m not supposed to be here,” she muttered to herself. “He’s not supposed to be in the morgue.”

Delonta Alexander was found gravely wounded after a 911 caller dialed authorities just after 1 a.m. on March 4 and reported that a gunshot victim was in the hallway of a building in the 2700 block of Langston Place SE. Responding D.C. police officers found Alexander, of Southwest Washington, unconscious on his back and bleeding from a head wound, according to a police report.

Authorities took him to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 7:42 that morning.

Delonta Alexander, 34, was found shot in Southeast Washington on March 4. He died in a hospital that morning. (Family Photo)

Police have not announced an arrest in the case or explained a motive, although they said the Toyota Camry Solara he was driving was stolen following the shooting.

On Thursday night, more than 100 people gathered to mourn Alexander, who lived with his mother and went to school in Prince George’s County, where he graduated from Suitland High School in 2000. He also spent much of his time with his father’s family in the Woodland area, where he was known as “Dewey” or “Lil Dewey.”

His family remembered a man who worked two jobs to help provide for his children. Outside of his family, Alexander’s passion was sports, especially the Dallas Cowboys. And he was “a true, laid-back North Carolina Tar Heels fan,” his mother said.

He loved go-go music and spending time around family and friends, especially in Southeast. Alexander did construction work for a window company and was an AutoZone cashier.

“He really, really loved this community. I think what he saw was the good in his community, from the people that he loved,” Latese Alexander said. “It just saddens me he got killed in a community he really, really loved.”

Before his killing, Delonta Alexander mourned the death of his 10-year-old brother, the loss of his closest grandmother and also a stepfather, his mother said.

“He was carrying around a heavy heart, but you would never know it,” she said.

At the vigil, family and friends held blue balloons in the shades of his favorite teams. His mother and the mothers of his children said they seek answers and justice.

“If you find something out, if you know something, man, say something. You know, be for real,” said Tamara Coln, the mother of Alexander’s daughter, Tianna, and 4-year-old son, Brenden.

The women closest to him were also left wondering how to fill the void brought by the death of a man they considered an awesome dad, and how to raise three children in deep mourning.

Keyonna McDuffie, the mother of 5-year-old Delonta Jr., called Alexander “a very lovable person” who was drawn to kids and quality time with his family, she said.

Now she is trying to figure out how to help his namesake cope.

“We are going to be missing a father. Right now my son is asking what is the number to heaven, so he can call his daddy,” McDuffie said.

As the vigil concluded, mourners released dozens of balloons into the dark sky, and his children all cried, “Daddy.”

His daughter put her teary face into her grandmother’s arms, crying, “They took my daddy, they took my daddy!”

Latese Alexander hugged her deeply, with the only answer she could muster, “I know, baby girl, I know. But it’s okay. He’s with God.”