Family mourns father killed in violent crime spree across DC, Maryland

A small memorial is growing for a man killed in a violent crime spree of shootings and carjackings in D.C. and Maryland within 12 hours.

Alberto Vasquez, Jr., 35, known to his family and friends as "AJ" has been identified by D.C. authorities as the victim fatally shot Monday evening along 3rd and N Street NE during a carjacking.

"Everyone always remembers AJ. Everyone always remembers him not matter what the scene was," Vasquez’s mother Antoinette Walker said. "With the amount of carjackings and just instances of this magnitude, now it’s touched our doorstep. It’s not right."

Walker and her family visited the memorial for the first time Wednesday, two days after her son was shot and killed. Vasquez’s murder was the third incident Monday evening perpetrated by the same suspect, following a shooting and attempted carjacking in the hours prior. The victim in the first shooting on the 900 block of K Street NW has been identified as Mike Gill, former Republican representative on the D.C. Board of Elections. Gill has been hospitalized in critical condition, according to police.

Photo via family of Alberto "AJ" Vasquez, Jr.

The suspect, identified Wednesday as 28-year-old Artell Cunningham of Suitland, was shot and killed Tuesday morning by two police officers in New Carrollton after the string of crimes that included at least two more carjackings in Prince George’s County and shooting at a number of police cruisers. The incidents occurred between Monday evening and Tuesday morning. The two officers were identified Wednesday by the Maryland Office of the Attorney General’s Independent Investigations Division as Sgt. Byron Purcell and Cpl. Carlos Batenga.

Vasquez’s father, Jacob Walker, said he was the oldest of three siblings. Vasquez was also the father of two young girls, Walker said.

"His daughters will never get that chance to talk to him again. No weddings, no nothing. He’s 35 years old," he said. "Gun violence. We talk about it so much and it just goes in one ear and out the other. It’s never going to change. It’s not going to stop with this here. We know that. It’s not a ‘tragedy,’ this has just become normalized in a sense for America, you know? Whether you’re for guns or not for guns, whether you believe in mental health. Regardless, there has to be something done."

Walker said the past two days have been surreal as a father. Their family moved from New York to Virginia when his son was about 11 years old, he said. The decision to move was partially due to safety concerns.

READ MORE: Deadly DC carjacking: Suspect in DMV carjacking spree fatally shot by police

"We wanted to provide them [kids] with some sort of better education. We felt like education was the way out of everything. Maybe we were naïve to never think…you know…you make plans for your kids and you hope that they go off to college, they get married…you never plan for this though. You never envision this," he said. "Never had expectations that I would be…having to bury my child over something as senseless as a carjacking."

Walker recalled the moment he was told the suspect responsible for his son’s death had died, as well.

"My heart goes out to their family. I just wanted to talk to him [suspect] and explain to him who my son was. My son would never hurt a fly. You had the car. Just go. Just let him live," he said. "Christmas? Gone. He just turned 35 ten days ago. You know, just…not a good place."

Walker said right now, his family is preparing funeral arrangements for his son. However, he does not want his son’s name to solely become part of a statistic in gun violence. 

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Photo via family of Alberto "AJ" Vasquez, Jr.

His goal is to create an organization or non-profit on behalf of his son one day, he said.

"Why is it normal to take somebody else’s life? That’s the bigger question we have to ask. For police officers that have to come to a family and tell a family. What does that do for them? Even for reporters, some part, you lose. You do the same thing over and over again. It’s not healthy. It can’t possibly be healthy for the human mind to endure tragedy after tragedy. You’re holding a camera and you’re seeing another family and another family. It just becomes names and faces. It just all runs concurrent," he said. "What do we do? Where do we go, you know? He didn’t have to die. He didn’t have to die. He didn’t deserve to die. Not like this."