Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Trinidad Shrine to Melvin Seals

This elaborate - and very new - shrine to Melvin Seals is at the corner of Morse St. & Montello Ave. NE Washington DC, in the Trinidad/Ivy City neighborhood. There were two other killings in one week just blocks from this site, but no other shrines have been erected that I could ascertain.

This is the first time I had seen McDonald's food wrappers and Mike & Ike candy boxes on a shrine. I assume they were among Mr. Seal's favorites.

While I was taking these shots, an ex-girfriend of Mr. Seal's, Trina, came by on a bicycle & taked directly to the shrine, She visits every day. She spoke to me- and to the shrine itself (as though it were alive or listening)"You're not gone."
She had tears in her eyes.

There were several sullen tough young men hanging close nearby. I wondered if they knew- or were- the killer/s.

According to the Washington Post: Metro section B2 5/6/08
"Melvin Seals, 30, was killed April 26. 2008. Police were patrolling just a block away when Seals was shot at 2:00 AM in front of a community center. He was hit 17 times. He recently had graduated from a city program that led to a position with the Department of Public Works."

Dion Johnson, my young protege from Shooting Back and Streets to Skills, has many relatives living nearby. I have been in the neighborhood often, and know a number of residents pretty well - Dion's Aunt Pat and cousin Reyna especially.

Hits home. Hard on the heart.

Carver Terrace again- Shrine for Brandon Gaines

From the Washington Post: Metro section page B2 5/6/08
"Brandon Gaines, 25. His body was found at 7:30 PM April 22, 2008 near his home in the 2000 block of Maryland Ave [NE]. He had been shot multiple times. Police said they were looking into whether his shooting is tied to an investigation into a ring in the Carver Terrace area. Gaines had previous brushes with the police, dating to his teens, including a drug conviction."

There are numerous shrines all within a block or two of this recent killing. Several people observed me making these photographs, including two middle-aged men standing no more than 15 feet away - but nobody ventured to ask questions or speak to me.

Tough neighborhood, to say the least.

Tory Wilcher Shrine- Carver Terrace neighborhood

From the Washington Post: Metro section page B2 5/6/08
"Tory Wilcher, 30, was killed April 2 2008. Hours before his death, Wilcher cashed a check for plumbing work worth about $1000, and then flashed hundreds of dollars at a neighborhood dice game. Police said an argument erupted over money, and Wilcher got into a scrape with 18-year old Vincent Mills Jr. of Hyattsville [MD]. Wilcher of SE [DC], was shot in the head. His body was found about 10 PM in the 800 block of 19th St [NE]. His pockets were turned inside out, and his money was gone. Mills was arrested April 27 and charged with second-degree murder."

I spoke at length with an older neighbor, Cheryl. She was involved in the shrine-building vigil. She said Wilcher had one child, and another was on the way. Cheryl was raised on the block and said it used to be safe. Now, her grandkids and grandnieces etc., are afraid to play outside. She is scared for the safety of her son, who is a DC police officer. It's a dangerous job. "He's a good son" she said.

Greed. Violence. Another flimsy heart-rending shrine.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Brian's V Street NE Memorial

While snarled in traffic on V St NE (a long strip of warehouses and industrial buildings), I noticed this old, traditional shrine to "Brian." Plain and simple.

I could discern no other information, either at the site or through internet searches.

Someone must have cared very much.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Sursum Corda Bottle Shrine

I found this huge bottle shrine to an unidentified victim on 1st Terrace NW, Washington DC, near K St., in the troubled Sursum Corda neighborhood. It was inaccessable to me, behind a tall barbed wire fence in an abandoned grocery store parking lot. I stood on a ladder to make the photographs.

A few strewn teddy bears and T-shirts, and hundreds and hundreds of of liquor bottles. It looked as if the shrine had been there a while. One of the rare instances of finding significant grafitti in conjunction with a shrine in the District. I could find no information on this murder- one of many that have sadly occured in Sursum Corda.

Respectful Shrine to Michael R. Dempsey

I learned of this shrine to Michael R. Dempsey, located in the 800 block of Decatur St NE Washington DC, from Cosby Hunt, a teacher at DC's School Without Walls. I spoke to his class about the shrines and a lively, thoughtful discussion followed.

Mr. Hunt said this shrine was around the corner from where he lives, in a neighborhood that looks to be pretty nice generally. The shrine was alongside the Faith Friendship Church. It was the first memorial I'd seen by a church in some time. I could find no further information on the demise of young Mr. Dempsey, other than what was posted on his photo at the site. He was born July 16 1987, and died Dec. 22, 2007. Just twenty years old...

No liquor bottles...

UPDATE, December 2008:
I received a call from Michael Dempsey's older brother, a successful electrician, who wished to tell me of his brother's life, and to help leave a legacy of some kind. He told me Michael had been in a telecom apprenticeship program at the time of his death, and "was on the road to doing something with himself." He had attended Roosevelt High School, and had grown up in the neighborhood where the shrine was located. He was gunned down on 8th St NW. Mr. Dempsey's body was found in his car. He had never been in trouble, wasn't a gambler, and no one can figure out what made him a target for homicide. His brother told me that he had to identify the body; a very difficult thing to do. His killer has not yet been found. There were some leads, but as of yet there has been no conviction, no closure.

His family and friends erected the shrine as a matter of respect. It has been a very hard time for his parents, especially this past Christmas, which is near the anniversary of his death.

Lieutenant Quarles Harris Jr. Shrine

I found this shrine in the 2800 block of 12th St NE of Washington, DC.
News and police reports stated that Lieutenant Quarles Harris Jr. of Capitol Heights, MD, aged 24, was shot and killed at close range while getting into his car at about 11 PM on Thursday April 17 2008. Police said he was carrying his car keys, a muffin and a bottle of water when he was shot.

There was an elementary-school-aged boy in the yard where the shrine was located, whacking a bush furiously over & over with a homemade sword while I took the photographs.

Shrine for Gary Oliver English

The Washington Post reported that Gary Oliver English, a mechanic for Comcast, was shot and killed Monday April 14, 2008 from a gun fired out of a sports utility vehicle. He was hit multiple times. Police are investigating if the murder was gang-related.
A man, aged 60, who police called an innocent bystander, was grazed. This shrine is in the 2000 block of Lincoln Rd NE Washington DC.