The three men from the Riverdale Crew piled into a black Dodge Avenger in the early morning hours of Oct. 19, 2016, looking for revenge, according to police charging documents.
When they arrived at a parking lot in Largo, Md., shortly after 1:30 a.m., two of them stepped out with guns and one of them fired before they fled.
The men thought they had targeted members of a rival gang, prosecutors said. Instead they shot at a young college couple who had just graduated Largo High School with honors and had nothing to do with the feud.
More than a year after the shooting that killed 18-year-old Allyssa Banks and wounded her boyfriend, authorities in Prince George’s County on Thursday announced arrests in the case that at one point investigators thought had gone cold.
“This was a very challenging case,” Prince George’s County Police Chief Henry P. Stawinski said. “There was nothing to connect these completely innocent victims to the perpetrators who carried out a very deliberate act of evil in our community.”
Josue Vasques, 21, of New Carrollton, Daniel Butler, 23, of Bladensburg and Thomas Jenkins, 20, of Riverdale have been charged with murder and attempted murder in the shooting. They are all jailed without bond.
Banks’s killing rattled the community. She was the second of three Largo High School graduates or alumni to be fatally shot in a year, an honor student before she graduated and well known as the student body president. Banks was attending Prince George’s Community College and dreamed of becoming an emergency medical technician.
“She was a shining star,” said Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks. “She was so well loved.”
The night of the shooting, Banks got out of the car to help her boyfriend parallel park near Swiss Gap and Prince Place after a date, police said, when Vasques and Jenkins, armed with guns, approached.
“Where you from?” Vasques asked Banks’s boyfriend, according to charging documents.
Shortly after, prosecutors said, Vasques fired.
The defendants are “members of the Riverdale Crew and traveled to Largo to commit acts of retaliation against the Largo Crew at the time of the murder,” charging documents state.
Banks and her boyfriend, who was also shot but survived, were not affiliated with either group and were at the “wrong place at the wrong time,” said Joe Ruddy, a prosecutor with the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office. “They [mistook] the two victims for members of a larger crew when there was absolutely no evidence.”
Stawinski would not detail what led authorities to Vasques, Butler and Jenkins and declined to say whether it was a specific act of violence or incident that drove the alleged retaliation.
Stawinski said police have been aware of the Riverdale and Largo crews for “some time” but they had mostly been involved in “relatively minor things” before Banks’s killing.
“It’s about geography,” Stawinski said. “This is about ‘I live over here and you live over there’ and for some reason, there’s got to be violence. That’s how pointless this is.”
Prince George’s County District Court Judge Patrice Lewis ordered Butler and Jenkins to remain jailed without bond at a hearing Thursday afternoon, saying they were a danger to the community.
At the bail hearing, a public defender for Butler said her client had a “spotless” criminal record and she had no information about alleged gang affiliations. Prosecutors said Butler admitted his involvement in the crime, but Butler’s public defender said the statement was coerced by detectives who told him he’d never see his 1-year-old child again.
Jenkins’s public defender said the only evidence prosecutors have linking his client to the shooting is a “highly unreliable” statement from one of the co-defendants in the case.
Online court records did not list an attorney for Vasques, who was indicted in the case two weeks ago.
Standing next to the homicide detective investigating the case, Banks’s mother, Lydia Banks, had few words Thursday as authorities announced charges. She thanked police for their work investigating the “heinous crime” and clutched photos of her daughter in her blue cap and gown.