Edwin Alexander Campos-Hernandez was a peaceful person.
The 28-year-old Salvadoran of the 3700 block of Bel Pre Road in Silver Spring moved to the area with his brother, Elmer Campos-Hernandez, four years ago. Elmer said Edwin never had any issues with anyone, that he never got into trouble.
Edwin Campos-Hernandez was stepping out of a taxi just outside of his apartment complex along Bel Pre Road just before 3 a.m. on Sunday when he was approached by two men, according to police. After a “verbal exchange” on the sidewalk, he was shot and later died in the hospital from gunshot wounds.
Police said they believe it was a robbery from the start and that it was a random event. Montgomery County police Capt. Paul Starks said there is no known relationship or association between Campos-Hernandez and the suspects. He said there are not many robberies that involve a firearm and that they “very rarely” result in a homicide.
Elmer Campos-Hernandez said during a press conference Tuesday afternoon that he hopes addressing the public might save someone else’s life.
“For me, he was my only brother. He was just like my right hand. ... My soul hurts because now I have to get used to living without him,” he said. “Today it was my brother. Tomorrow it might be someone else.”
Lt. Greg Wise, the deputy director for the county’s Major Crimes Division, said police have increased patrol in that area.
“It is unusual that we’ve had a cluster [of homicides] like this all together. They are not connected at all, in our opinion, and we don’t know what’s caused it,” Wise said.
Campos-Hernandez’s death was the sixth homicide in Montgomery County since Dec. 3 and the fourth to be determined as the result of a shooting. One homicide was the result of a stabbing and another happened when the suspect intentionally rammed the victim with a vehicle, police said.
The deaths, all of which so far are considered unrelated, began Dec. 3 when Maryland State Troopers found 37-year-old Frederick resident John P. Ryan dead and locked in the trunk of his car in Gaithersburg, said State Police Spokesman Greg Shipley. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner later confirmed Ryan had died from a single gunshot wound to his head.
The second victim, 45-year-old Cesar Smith, was beaten and stabbed to death after he had an argument with several men in his Gaithersburg apartment shortly after midnight Dec. 3, police said. The third homicide happened Dec. 5 when an unknown man intentionally struck two 34-year-old brothers with a car near 211 West Diamond Avenue in Gaithersburg at about 1:17 a.m., police reported.
Back-to-back shootings rocked the White Oak and Briggs Chaney neighborhoods of Silver Spring on Dec. 7 and Dec. 10, respectively. In the Dec. 7 incident, 21-year-old Jesse Patrick Campos was shot to death after two attackers forced their way into his White Oak apartment, while 24-year-old Christopher Davon White, a Landover resident, was found shot to death in Briggs Chaney on Dec. 10, police said.
Although police maintain that none of the killings are linked in any way, several of them share similarities, police said. Drugs or drug-motivated robberies were mentioned as potential factors behind both shootings in Silver Spring, according to Lt. Michael Price, the acting commander of the Silver Spring district, at a community meeting in White Oak last week.
“Yes, you may have evidence that he had prior drug convictions, but in the end it's not what you know; it's what you can prove,” Price said of the Campos homicide after the meeting. “ ... We're leaving no stone unturned in either of these investigations."
State troopers also found about a pound of marijuana with Ryan’s body Dec. 3, but investigators still are uncertain what role that may have played in his killing or even if Ryan was killed in the county, Shipley said.
All of the victims except for Campos-Hernandez appear to have been specifically targeted by their killers and in most cases detectives believe the killers were at least known by the victims, if not familiar with them.
“We don’t believe that these were random,” Starks said, speaking specifically of the four homicides being investigated by county police before Campos-Hernandez’s killing. “We believe that the motivation has something to do with the relationship or association that previously existed between the respective suspect and victim.”
Anyone with information about these crimes is asked to contact the Major Crimes Division at 240-773-5070 and those who wish to remain anonymous can call Crime Solvers of Montgomery County at 1-866-411-8477. Crime Solvers pays a cash reward of up to $10,000 for any tip that leads to an arrest or indictment.