Nearly every eye was filled with tears as people gathered in the 6100 block of Old Central Avenue in Capitol Heights, where cries of anguish and suffering could be heard from blocks away.
Friends and family wrapped arms tightly around one another Sept. 13 to mourn the loss of their loved one at a vigil held at the scene of his death. Marckel Norman Ross, 18, was shot dead Sept. 11 on his walk to school.
Ross, a junior at Central High School and a Capitol Heights resident, was part of the school’s ROTC, track team and modeling team, and "had the best smile in the world," said many of those who knew him.
Around 6:50 a.m., county police received multiple 911 calls for a “man down” and found Ross lying on the sidewalk suffering from a gunshot wound. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The candlelight vigil was an opportunity to share stories of Ross, sing hymns, comfort one another and pray for healing. Many also expressed their need for answers and justice in the “senseless killing.”
Some friends and family members shouted, while others whispered their thoughts and grievances at the center of nearly 300 gathered around the crime scene. Following the vigil, some attendees placed their lit candles and momentos on the ground to create a makeshift memorial.
“I’m hurt. Very devastated. When I got the phone call I was just berserk,” said Katrina Pog, who said she was Ross’ aunt. “We’re just trusting in God to keep us strong and help us get through this. We’re looking for justice. He was the sweetest young man.”
Classmates, many wearing custom T-shirts that said “R.I.P. Marckel” and “I love you best friend,” say they can’t point to a single reason why anyone would shoot and kill the student that was “always dancing, always smiling.”
“He liked to smile a lot and be happy. I don’t see how they could’ve done it. Out of everybody, how could it have been him?” said Central freshman Mary Foday, 15, of Capitol Heights.
“People shouldn’t shoot nobody, especially him,“said senior Elliott Shipmon, 16, of Capitol Heights.
Family members said that Ross previously had problems with bullying at Central, but administrators had since resolved the issues and there were no known conflicts.
Prince George’s police say they have no suspects yet and have not established a motive in the slaying, though some friends and parents of Central students say it was over a pair of shoes — red Nike Foamposite sneakers — that Ross had been wearing.
Maj. George Nader, the District 2 commander, would not say if anything was found to be taken from Ross's body after the shooting.
Nader and other county police officials attended Central High School’s back to school night, held just prior to the vigil to provide the school community with an update on their investigation and ask for help in identifying persons of interest.
“We are working around the clock in all efforts to determine what happened,” Nader said. “Detectives are following any and every lead that we have. We have our police officers working around the clock as we do with any incident of this magnitude.”
Nader said in two weeks, county police will return to the school to hold another meeting to provide an update to the community on the investigation.
The Rev. Tony Lee of the Community of Hope AME Church in Temple Hills said he attended the vigil to help the students cope with the loss.
“The family members need your prayers and you need to pray for each other because it’s obvious that in Marckel’s short life, he touched so many people.”