What to Know
- The suspects began hitting Mason Atkins and his friends, who sprayed the suspects with pepper spray to try to get them away, police said.
- The case was stalled until a detective realized, "If I had been pepper-sprayed, I would want to wash my eyes."
Two 18-year-old men and two 17-year-old girls from Waldorf, Maryland, have been charged with murder in the death of an 18-year-old after they left a party and argued last month in Charles County, Maryland, police say.
Mason Cameron Atkins died after he and another person were shot on Sept. 25 in La Plata, Maryland. On Tuesday, four suspects were arrested in connection with his death.
Kevin Averell Jones, 18; Shanya Imari Milstead, 17; Talivah Laraiah Salahuddin, 17; and Tyreq Kaylin Tilghman, 18, each were charged with first-degree murder, first-degree assault and attempted murder, the Charles County Sheriff's Office said Wednesday.
The 18-year-old's death has "destroyed" the Atkins family, Mason Atkins' father, Mac Atkins, said Wednesday outside the family's home in Deale, on the Chesapeake Bay.
"It's horrible. I don't know what the hell these kids were thinking. They're sick and they need to be put away," he said, his face drawn.
Before Atkins was killed, he and several friends went uninvited to an outdoor party on Mona Farm Place in La Plata, police said the preliminary investigation showed. They were asked to leave, and drove about a half-mile away, toward Crain Highway (Route 301).
Then, Atkins and his friends stopped their car on the side of the dirt road and the four suspects drove past them, police said. That group also had been asked to leave the party. They began to argue, police said.
The suspects began hitting Atkins and his friends, who sprayed the suspects with pepper spray to try to get them away, police said.
One of the suspects then pulled out a handgun and fired several shots into the car, hitting Atkins and one friend, police said.
Police did not say which of the young people is believed to have fired.
The suspects fled, and the victims drove at least 5 miles away, to Popes Creek Road in Newburg, Maryland, police said. The victims then called 911, police said.
Atkins' friend survived, but Atkins was pronounced dead.
"Guy came over and started attacking my son. My son sprayed him with mace and the coward shot him," Mac Atkins said he was told. "While he was in the car. He never got out of the car. They were beating him up in the car."
Atkins was a cadet at the Deale Volunteer Fire Department, his father said. He was learning to be an auto body mechanic and made friends easily.
"Good kid. Best friend to every kid he's ever met. Probably been 12 kids came by here saying Mason was their best friend. I don't know how he can be best friends with so many people, but he managed," Mac Atkins said.
Atkins attended Southern High School and liked to hunt, fish and ride dirt bikes, according to his obituary.
The investigation was stalled until a detective had an important revelation: "If I had been pepper-sprayed, I would want to wash my eyes."
Police checked surveillance footage at a gas station about 3 miles from the crime scene.
The footage from one camera showed "a young woman walking into the gas station and purchasing two bottles of water," police spokeswoman Diane Richardson said.
The footage from a second camera showed "two males getting out of a black car and rinsing their face off with water," she said.
"It was an excellent lead that helped bring the case together," Richardson said.
Officers found a gun, which will be examined.
All four suspects were charged as adults and are being held without bond at the Charles County Detention Center. No information on their lawyers was available immediately.
Anyone with information on the case is asked to call police at 301-609-6513. Tips may be made anonymously by calling 1-866-411-TIPS, sending a text message with CHARLES to CRIMES or by visiting www.tipsubmit.com. A reward of as much as $1,000 is offered.