A red poinsettia in a pot tipped to its side and tied to a tree marks the spot where Randall Jaquan Francis was shot to death Monday afternoon along a blighted patch of Benning Road in Northeast Washington.
The 20-year-old had graduated from Eastern High School in 2016 and was an aspiring model and photographer who had an eye on college, according to a community leader who spoke with his family.
D.C. police said in a report he was shot multiple times in the head. Authorities have not divulged a motive but said they think the killing was targeted.
Francis died on the sidewalk at 1816 Benning Rd. NE, in front of the green-and-yellow door of the Baby Einstein Child Development Center, on a street already crowded with the memories of other crime victims.
A few doors down is another street-corner memorial — garland and beads spiraling up a no parking sign, a deflated balloon dangling from the top. It could be for the 25-year-old man gunned down there in September, though there are no names.
Benning Road east of the H Street entertainment strip has been a particularly violent stretch this year. Four people have been killed and several others wounded from the 1500 to the 1800 blocks in what police believe were unrelated attacks.
Francis was the District’s 148th homicide victim of the year, and another killing in Shaw about 6:30 p.m. Monday raised the number to 149, compared with 105 at this time last year.
That killing occurred inside an apartment in the 1600 block of New Jersey Avenue NW. Police said they charged William Alexander Marrouquin Gallardo, 24, with second-degree murder in the beating death of Noe Alberto Gallardo Ponce, 22. Police did not reveal a possible motive.
Francis’s relatives did not want to talk publicly on Tuesday, preferring instead to have a neighborhood advisory commissioner, Kathy Henderson, release some details about a young man they described as having “a promising life full of aspirations, ambitions and hope.”
Henderson quoted the slain man’s grandmother: “There was no reason to kill my grandson, who attended church every Sunday and was a good person. I can’t believe someone would do this.”
About a half-hour before Francis was shot, he went into the Food 7 store, which fills its windows with poster-size pictures of the police district commander interacting with residents. The store manager, Abraham Gebremedhin, said Francis lingered for about 30 minutes and left about 1:45 p.m. having bought a 30-cent packet of sunflower seeds and a 50-cent juice. He said Francis, whom he knew from previous visits, appeared nervous.
Francis left the store and walked past the liquor store a few storefronts away.
Henderson said she wants to give police more authority to clear people off blocks, noting a worn strip of storefronts that includes a liquor store where people congregate through the night.
She noted that on Tuesday she saw a man trying to buy single cigarettes at a store, which is illegal. “They’re bold enough to commit a shooting in the middle of the day because this place has a reputation for anything goes,” Henderson said.