A total of 416 people, mostly men in their 20s, died in homicides in D.C. and its three largest suburban counties in 2021.
In D.C., 227 people were homicide victims as of Friday morning, up from 198 people killed last year. Prince George’s County had 133 people killed, up from 99 people last year. Fairfax County’s count jumped from 15 to 21 people. And Montgomery County’s count jumped from 19 to 35 people.
The year brought a rise in violence not seen in nearly two decades in Washington. While the annual count was nowhere near what D.C. saw in the early 1990s, when the city was called the nation's murder capital, gun violence traumatized every quadrant of District residents this year.
In November the District tallied its 200th killing for the first time since 2003, when 30-year-old Dawann Saunders was found shot and killed near a gas station in the 4700 block of South Capitol Street. Homicide detectives later charged 20-year-old Lloyd Patteron-Ross with first-degree murder.
In July, District residents were appalled by the killing of a child. Six-year-old Nyiah Courtney was killed in a mass shooting that wounded five adults, including her mother, at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X avenues SE. An appalled and at times emotional Police Chief Robert Contee railed against gun violence the following night saying, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.” The shooting prompted Southeast residents to march through the streets calling for healing.
The deadliest shooting of the year left two men and a woman dead and three others injured in the 600 block of Longfellow Street NW on Labor Day weekend. Thirty-one-year-old Donetta Dyson worked as a patient services assistant in MedStar Washington Hospital Center’s operating room, the hospital said in a tribute to her on Facebook. Johnny Joyner, 37, and Keenan Braxton, 24, were also killed. Two men were arrested in October and charged with multiple counts in connection to the shooting.
Outside D.C., the uptick in killings was even more dramatic. Prince George’s County police reported 133 homicides as of Friday morning, up from 99 homicides reported in county data for 2020.
The stray bullet killing of 8-year-old Peyton “PJ” Evans in Landover appalled residents in August. News4’s Darcy Spencer spoke with Evans’ shattered mother the morning after the shooting. Evans was a dedicated youth football player with the Showcase Sharks, his mother said. He proudly wore the number 21. The night he was killed, he was celebrating a scrimmage his team won.
"He just loved his family, and he loved his friends and his teammates," the child's mother, Tiffani Evans, said.
Police in the county are still trying to solve the potential road rage-motivated killing of 30-year-old Danny Kelly as he drove to Christmas Eve dinner last week. Police say Kelly was shot and killed in his car, in front of his girlfriend and his three young children. His heartbroken boxing coach told News4’s Paul Wagner, “I loved him like a son.”
In Fairfax County, authorities attributed a spike in homicides to pandemic-related isolation. Many of the 21 homicides detectives have worked in the county have followed domestic incidents.
Four young men were accused of killing family members across the county this year. In the most recent case, 19-year-old Philip Nguyen was charged in early September with stabbing his father, 78-year-old Truman Nguyen, to death and burying his body in the backyard of their home in the Falls Church area.
Police accused 25-year-old Brian George Sayrs of killing his former landlord in July. Emily Lu, 72, was missing for 50 days before her remains were found in a wooded area of Lorton. Detectives described Lu’s death as a, "brutal, vicious murder."
Similar domestic killings were reported in Montgomery County, where 92-year-old Nancy Ann Frankel was killed by her 26-year-old tenant, Julia Birch in July, according to police.
In Montgomery County, the homicide count skyrocketed an alarming 84% in 2021. The 35 killings reported there this year are the most since at least 1990, when available record keeping began.
Several shooting deaths occurred this year in the White Oak area. Brian Waters, 25, and Pierre Daye, 18, were killed in a shooting on November Drive in March.
Residents continue to voice concerns about an increase of violence in downtown Silver Spring. Getro Banamina, 19, was stabbed to death there during a fight earlier this month.
Leaders in all four jurisdictions will continue their search for ways to curb violence going into 2022. Prince George’s County officials are taking applications from anti-violence community groups through the middle of January.
Curbing crime will also be a central issue of D.C. mayoral race, which is just getting underway.