DC police investigating shooting that left young mother dead

D.C. Police are searching for the suspect behind a deadly shooting in Southeast over the weekend that left a 23-year-old woman dead. It's the latest case in a surge of murders in the District. 

The victim is Cyhneil Smith, a young mother who had just recently graduated from a local vocational school and was determined to get her life right. 

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In 2018, Smith signed up for vocational training in hospitality at the Amala Lives Institute. Amala means hope in Arabic, it's a school for young adults looking for a second chance.  

Smith’s story was the focus of a 2018 Washington Post feature highlighting the vocational school's success. 

“It just rocked my spirit. My institution and I invested so much into Cyhneil," said Amala Lives Institute CEO and mentor, Brandi Forte.

“She had accountability, she had ownership, somedays she would ask ‘can I bring my son to class because I don’t have anyone to watch him’...She had fortitude, she wanted to survive, she was fearless. I didn't expect her to go out like this,” said Forte. 

Early Friday morning, DC police found Smith dead in a car on 37th street in Southeast –– she was shot multiple times. 

Smith’s sister was murdered just about two years ago and less than three blocks from where she was shot and killed. D.C. police say there’s no indication these murders are related. 

As of today, the District is reporting 161 homicides, which is up 16 percent from last year, and there’s still 10 weeks left in the year. 

READ MORE: DC deputy mayor vows to increase police presence after deadly weekend

“We need to do better, we need to get these guns off the streets, period,” said Forte. 

There are a number of initiatives and work being done on the ground to help curb the violence, including the work of Bridges D.C. that has started conversations, and even pop up prayer sessions. 

“This year alone, there’s been an uptick in young females being killed, I have a 19-year-old daughter, and it scares me,” said Luqman Sabouro. “We started a pop-up prayer, we go into the targeted neighborhoods that have a lot of violence, we try to maintain peace, pray together, and come to some common ground and build from that."

Police say the motive of the shooting is unclear, and whoever did this is still out there. The department is offering a $25,000 reward for information that could lead to an arrest.