By Melissa Quinn
A celebratory gathering at a home on the 100 block of Lynhaven Drive ended in tragedy last week after Alexandrian Julian Dawkins was shot and killed in what city police now consider a homicide.
Authorities have released little information about the death of the 22-year-old, though multiple media reports claim Dawkins was seen arguing with Craig Patterson, a 44-year-old Arlington County sheriff’s deputy, before a single gun shot rang out in the neighborhood. Department spokeswoman Ashley Hildebrandt would not comment on whether Patterson was the one who shot Dawkins.
Dawkins had gathered at his aunt’s home to celebrate his cousin Tierra Ruffin-Pratt — she learned she had made the Washington Mystics.
Though little has been released surrounding the course of events, a neighbor told the Washington Post she saw Dawkins speaking with a man, believed to be Patterson, near the corner of Lynhaven Drive and Evans Lane around 12:30 a.m.
The conversation grew louder, the neighbor told reporters, and the two started arguing. Dawkins then began chasing the man down the street. Once he stopped, though, the unidentified man was heard telling Dawkins, “I’ll be back. You best believe I’ll be back.”
Less than 15 minutes later, a gun shot cut through the night, and Dawkins fell face first to the ground, his cell phone lying in the grass near his body.
Police responded to the corner of Lynhave Drive and Evans Lane after receiving a call around 12:45 a.m. that someone had been shot, Hildebrandt said. Dawkins was rushed to a nearby hospital and pronounced dead upon his arrival while detectives began questioning Patterson in connection with the shooting.
Less than 12 hours after Dawkins’ death, police tape was removed from the scene, his blood still staining the grass where he fell. Relatives, friends and mourners began to construct a makeshift memorial for the man, who worked as a driver for “PBS NewsHour.”
Empty bottles of 1800 Tequila, Hennessy and Peach Ciroc, a red jersey bearing Dawkins last name and the number 3, flowers, and stuffed animals lined the fence near where Dawkins was killed.
“You will truly be missed JuJu,” read a pillow placed on the browning grass.
Though it has been more than a week since Dawkins — who graduated from T.C. Williams — was killed, police have released no new information about the case. His death was officially ruled a homicide by the medical examiner, but concerns have been raised from many in the community who wonder why Patterson — now on administrative leave — has yet to be charged.
A small group of Dawkins’ friends and family congregated in front of Alexandria’s Court House on Tuesday, demanding justice for the 22-year-old. Several demanded the police department cover the cost of Dawkins’ funeral.
“The police aren’t going to give any money to help with the funeral. Money can’t get a life back, but I’m just saying. It’s not right,” said Joy Brandon, a long-time friend of Dawkins.
Brandon stood by a poster that read, “Every 28 hours a black person is killed by a police!!! Enuff is Enuff,” a statistic that was pulled from a Malcolm X Grassroots Movement report. Demonstrators gathered around to sign the poster and hand out pictures of Dawkins.
Other, like Nicholas Beltrante, are concerned the police department will keep quiet about the fatal shooting.
“I think they’re going to withhold information,” said Beltrante, executive director of the Virginia Citizens Coalition for Police Accountability. “If they do, it does not put the department or city in jeopardy.”
Beltrante hopes that once a suspect is charged, Commonwealth’s Attorney Randy Sengel — whose office will prosecute the case — will request a special prosecutor and grand jury.
“I think it’s essential — it’s critical — that this matter go before a grand jury,” he said.
Beltrante believes the Patterson is guilty of the crime. He hopes the Arlington lawman is charged in the case, but said he would not be surprised if Patterson walks free.
“If things go like they usually go, he will not be charged,” Beltrante said, “unless there is a special grand jury.”
But, Hildebrandt said if police build up enough evidence to identify Patterson as the shooter, he would be arrested.
“If he did it, of course he’ll be charged,” she said.
And Mayor Bill Euille, who is a personal friend of Robert Dawkins, the victim’s grandfather, remains confident justice will be served.
“I have full faith and confidence in our police department,” Euille said. “The process will be handled accordingly … and I’ve encouraged everyone to work efficiently and proficiently to get to the bottom of this and get the facts and keep the public informed so that folks are not second guessing.”
Dawkins’ murder is the second this year and comes after the Alexandria Police Department celebrated 2012 as homicide-free.
Several months ago, resident Elmer Roehrs was found dead in his home and weeks later Taft Sellers was shot and killed by city police officers. That case remains under investigation.
Julian Dawkins’ funeral will be held at the Antioch Church of Christ on Friday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
-Julia Brouillette contributed to this report