She was quoted as a voice of reason in the Washington Post, stunned in formal gowns at her high school dances, and through it all, had a vision to become a police detective after college.
But someone opened fire March 20, 2017, killing Ayana McAllister. She was home for spring break, taking a moment away from the rigors of her criminal justice studies at St. Augustine’s University.
Her father is a juvenile probation officer. Her mother, a therapist. She was home when she needed to be, and was watching a music video wrap production near the Benning Road Metro station.
Gunfire came from nowhere. And the person who sent round after round across an illuminated parking lot is still nowhere to be found, nearly one year after Ayana’s death.
“I think about what might have been, every day,” said her father, Anthony McAllister, in an interview Wednesday.
“That’s the hardest piece for me, as a father. To wake up. And I keep a picture of her right by my bed, so I wake up every morning and I see her.”
McAllister has only returned to the crime scene once – for an event he hosted to meet the community in June. It would have been Ayana’s 19th birthday.
He said there is no difference in leads, possible motives, suspects, anything, since the early days of the investigation.
“We as a family, we’re going to keep pursuing this,” McAllister said. “It is hard for me as a father to forgive. We want to wake up and find out this is not true, but it always is.”
News of her death spread around the country, after Washington Post political correspondent James Hohmann recalled how he met Ayana in North Carolina, days before the 2016 presidential election.
“She lamented the negativity in the political discourse and the nasty turn the fall campaign had taken,” Hohmann wrote. “America deserves better than this, I remember her telling me.”
Hohmann continued, “I’ve thought often since November of her call to elevate the discourse. Now Ayana has died, before she could even finish her freshman year.”
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said it was unclear whether Ayana was the target of the shooting, or if the killing could have been a random act.
The 18-year-old’s family has now established the Ayana J. McAllister Foundation, with a mission of helping communities of color that are disproportionately impacted by gun violence.
The foundation is now preparing for a May fashion show, directing proceeds to scholarships for students impacted by gun violence.
A gospel jazz prayer breakfast will follow in June, with the public invited to join elected officials, religious leaders, and survivors of gun violence.
“We put our energy into the foundation so we can keep going,” McAllister said. “If we find who did this, it won’t bring her back. But we want to continue this work, and have justice, finally, for Ayana.
To submit an anonymous tip concerning the unsolved murder of Ayana McAllister, click here to visit the Metropolitan Police Department Crime Solvers.