A hodgepodge of candles and teddy bears covered the ground where Joshua Hopkins, 19, spent his final moments grasping for life. Mourners gathered at the 6100 block of Banks Place N.E. on July 6 for a vigil honoring Hopkins’ once-promising future and memory – an all too common scene on the city’s streets this summer.
Mayor Adrian Fenty joined friends and members of Hopkins’ family, many who donned T-shirts emblazoned with the former Capitol Hill intern’s face and nickname, “Rat.”But even the mayor’s presence did little to soften the blow of Hopkins’ death, just weeks before he returned to college in West Virginia.
At 12:01 a.m. on July 3, an unidentified man shot Hopkins in the head near the Watts Branch Recreational Center, according to a police statement. He was transported to a local hospital and pronounced dead at 1:16 a.m.
Hopkins, who was home from college for the summer, was hanging out with friends at the Watts Branch Playground playing basketball at the time of the shooting. Although the motive is unclear, the murder seems to stem around a joke that offended the shooter.
A communications major at Fairmont State University, Hopkins interned for Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) in 2008 at his Capitol Hill office. He compiled research for senior staffers, logged constituent complaints, and answered telephones.
In a press release, Fattah called Hopkins, “a responsible and eager young man always willing to assist staff wherever possible. He was studious, purposeful and determined to do the hard work necessary to succeed in life.”
He continued, “Josh’s murder is a horrible tragedy, senseless as such violence will always be.”
Fattah’s Legislative Director Nuku Ofori, who worked closely with Hopkins during his internship, called him a curious and energetic person.
“Joshua was very impressive. He was a younger intern who would ask questions that our older interns would ask… He would ask five or 10 questions about a task I gave him to do,” said Ofori.
Hopkins frequently visited Watts Branch Recreational Center, where he played basketball and ping pong. Levon Staggs, who has worked at director of the Watts Branch Recreational Center for over seven years, said he watched Hopkins grow up.
“He was a funny, humble dude,” said Staggs. Hopkins’ mother was also viciously murdered when he was 5 months old. He was taken in and raised by his aunt Artelious Hopkins.
Cousin Lester Davis called his slain relative “personable” and encouraged anyone with information about the shooting to come forward and let the police handle the situation.
“He was a beautiful individual, fun loving. He liked to make people laugh and was jokester. He didn’t have a malicious bone in his body,” said Davis.
The Metropolitan Police Department is currently offering a reward of up to $25,000 to anyone that provides information which leads to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for the crime. Anyone with information about this case is asked to call the police at (202) 727-9099 or 1-888-919-CRIME (1-888-919-2746).