Against a backdrop of music, barbecue and face painting at the police-sponsored National Night Out, questions loomed about the unsolved murder of a 10-year-old girl, Makiyah Wilson.
D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham greeted community members Tuesday at a National Night Out even in Marvin Gaye Park, an evening of fun meant to strengthen the bonds between police and residents and fight crime in the process.
"It’s an opportunity for police and the community to interact," Newsham said. "I just think it’s a great night for policing."
D.C. police hosted nine National Night Out events in each of the seven police districts. Newsham's appearance at Marvin Gaye Park carried extra significance. It was just over three weeks before and blocks away from the park that Wilson was struck when a group of men opened fire outside her apartment complex.
Police and the Mayor have pleaded — and offered a $45,000 reward — for information from the community that leads to the killers. But no arrests have been made.
"Our intention is to not rest until we hold these guys accountable," he said, commenting that police have made a lot of progress on the case.
Wilson’s uncle, Mike D’Angelo, has funnelled grief into activism as police work to solve the case.
D’Angelo trekked between the spot where Wilson was killed in D.C. and Philadelphia, where D’Angelo says his brother was killed. He wanted to raise awareness about the violence.
"This can’t just be something we sweep under the rug," D’Angelo said. "I don’t know what the answer is to this. I just know we gotta do something."
He said he’s supportive of National Night Out if it promotes love and support of young people in the community.
But D'Angelo is working to spur a positive discussion about preventing violence in the community, the struggles of working mothers and the hardships of affording college, he said.
Parallel to the official police event, D’Angelo asked community members to meet near the Lincoln Memorial at 7 p.m. to vent on these issues.
"We should be filling each other with love, not bullets," he told News4 while sitting near a mound of teddy bears, signs, photos and other mementos marking a memorial for Wilson.
D’Angelo’s community meeting isn’t one of the official National Night Out events that 38 million people across the country are expected to attend. It’s unclear if any police officers will attend.
National Night Out is about tackling crime through community policing. D'Angelo's community meeting is about working through a complex web of social issues.
But they do share some overlapping goals.
"We should be protecting each other," D’Angelo said. "We should be building these kids and pouring into their cup of life."