Young woman who helped broker peace, is now a DC homicide victim

Close family and friends say the young woman killed in a middle-of-the-day Southeast D.C. shooting last Friday, was someone who helped broker peace in the community.

D.C. Police identified the victim as 21-year-old Lorraine Thomas. 

Video of Thomas quickly circulated online among those who knew her. The YouTube video, posted June 10, 2020, showed the 21-year-old talking with a member of the D.C. activist group, Alliance of Concerned Men (ACM). ACM operates one of the District’s violence interruptor programs, which seeks to quell violence in the District by mediating between two fighting parties. 

Thomas was asked in the video:, ‘“If you change one thing about your community, what would be that thing that you would change about your community? If you had the chance to change it?”

The 21-year-old answered: “the violence.”

“I just feel like it’s real big on that,” Thomas continued, “people don’t know how to like, just walk away. Like, they don’t know how to just talk and express their feelings with talking. They want to fight and be angry.”

D.C. Police say shots were fired near the 4200 block of 4th Street Southeast just before 3:20 p.m. Friday, October 30th. Thomas was found shot inside of a vehicle. A second woman suffered a minor graze wound. It’s not clear what prompted the shooting. 

“It just hurts. Honestly it hurts. It really does,” Clayton Rosenberg, Chief of Staff with ACM. 

Rosenberg tells FOX 5 that Thomas, who went by “Cyhnia” (pronounced “China”), was like family to the group and volunteered with ACM whenever possible. 

“She was key in helping us find individuals that we needed to talk to. That we needed to bring to the table. She had the relationships already because of her spirit,” said Rosenberg, “she had a light and a glow. She was just always willing to help out.”

They also say she was one of the people who did turn her life around.

Over the summer, multiple D.C. news outlets reported on a section of Washington Highlands that, at the time, hit nearly 100 days without a single shooting after a reported truce was brokered over several Zoom calls between two fighting men. Rosenberg says Thomas was the one who helped everyone connect.

On Saturday, a group of mothers came together in Southeast to call for an end to the violence in their neighborhood. The mothers, personally impacted by tragedy, say it’s bad enough gun violence is taking away many young men in the community -- now young women are dying too.