One year ago, a community leader was gunned down for less than $100 at a community Fourth of July barbecue.
A year after a man died for his heroic actions, his family still waits for his killers to be caught.
“Every day you hear something on TV and it’s like, Wow, I wonder if those were the guys,” said the victim’s daughter Ayana Pernell.
For the past year, twins Ayana Pernell and Yolanda Voglezon have been desperately searching for closure after their father was gunned down preparing for a July 4 barbeque. John Pernell, 66, was killed in the 3000 block of Nelson Place SE during a robbery gone wrong, police said.
“Just to know that my dad’s life was worth less than $100 is extremely frustrating and it really makes me angry,” Vogelzon said.
At about 4 p.m. July 3, 2010, neighbors were preparing for the annual community cookout when five men with guns ambushed the barbeque area demanding money, police said. Pernell, who spent much of his life as a protective services officer at the Wilson Building, stepped in to defend his neighbors. He was shot in the neck and stomach and died at the scene, witnesses said.
“Yes, I appreciate that my dad was being heroic and trying to save his other neighbors, but it just didn’t have to happen,” Voglezon said. “His heroic efforts shouldn’t have been necessary at all.”
Residents on Nelson Place SE said the neighborhood hasn’t been the same since Pernell passed away. To mark the one year anniversary of his death on Sunday, neighbors will go back to the barbeque area for a candlelight vigil and an all-night campout to remember the man they called “The Mayor.”
“Within the community, he did everything that he could,” neighbor Frank Robinson said. “John was the type that he would literally give up his shirt off his back.”
The gunmen weren’t wearing masks, and several people are believed to have seen their faces. Pernell’s daughters are hoping anyone who knows something will come forward, even if they’re scared of retaliation.
“The scariest thing here is that an innocent man lost his life and a murderer and a thief are able to walk free, that’s what people should be afraid of,” said Ayana Pernell.
D.C. police said this is still a very active investigation. They were able to track down the getaway car that was set on fire not long after the shooting. Police believe some of the gunmen live in the Benning Heights area of Southeast, which is close to the murder scene.
If you have any information about this case, call the anonymous tip hotline at 1-888-919-2746.