Family of young scholar lost to gunfire: If you don't forgive, you're held hostage

Victim's family can't visit DC murder scene after teen was shot and killed while home for spring break

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) - A month from Wednesday will mark what would have been Ayana McAllister’s 19th birthday. This Sunday will mark her family’s first Mothers’ Day without her.

McAllister was watching the final scene of a music video filming near Northeast’s Benning Road Metro station. She walked towards a car with her older sister, when someone opened fire from across a parking lot.

RELATED: College student home for spring break fatally shot in DC

McAllister – an exceptional student who was destined to join the District’s Special Victim’s Unit – was hit. She was pronounced dead March 21.

In a series of interviews Tuesday, her parents Tyreese and Anthony McAllister said they plan to hold a community day at the Fort Chaplin Apartments June 10. The McAllisters will always know the apartment complex as the crime scene in the 4200 block of Benning Road, where Ayana’s father has not yet set foot.

“I’m not there yet, I can’t go right now,” Anthony said. “But our community day will be on Ayana’s birthday. It’s so the residents can get to know us, help us, and I’ll go for Ayana, my family and myself.”

Anthony is a veteran public servant, helping young people for more than two decades. He is one of the well-known probation and parole officers in Alexandria’s juvenile and domestic relations district court.

He said his feelings change towards the gunman, who is still at large. The process is an emotional arc that remains unresolved, but he sees its eventual resolution as time passes.

“We will forgive as a family, but for me, it’s a process,” Anthony said.

“Today I’m a forgiver. Tomorrow I don’t know, you just don’t know. But if you don’t forgive, you’re held hostage.”

The case has no surveillance video, and currently, no suspects.

Ayana’s mother has visited the scene and is committed to finding a suspect for her daughter, and for the families who live nearby.

“It’s a community that has lots of little children, families, and because we don’t know who actually killed Ayana, other people are at risk,” Tyreese said. “My oldest daughter thought she was hearing firecrackers that night. My kids don’t know what a gunshot sounds like, and they shouldn’t. No kid should.”

A scholarship fund valued at more than $20,000 has been established to carry on Ayana’s name. The 18-year-old was home on spring break from St. Augustine’s University in Raleigh, N.C., just beginning her path as a criminal justice major.

Her parents remain proud of Ayana’s accomplishments, and proud that they will award a scholarship in her name each March. But they are profoundly changed, as they avoid lives adrift and instead dwell on love, not loss.

“This Mothers’ Day, there are no words that I can say to express the pain that I feel of losing my daughter, none,” Tyreese said.

“My hope is the person who shot Ayana will feel remorse that he took away a beautiful life, that he brought incredible sadness to our lives, and that he would do something with his own life as we persevere.”

D.C.’s anonymous tip line can be reached at (202) 727-9099 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Leads can also be sent in anonymously by texting 50411. Because the tip line is anonymous, the sender will not receive a response to the original message.

© 2017 WUSA-TV


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