U Street shooting aftermath: Funeral held for Jamal Coates under police presence (photos)

This story has been updated.


u street shooting jamal coates
(Photo: Jay Westcott)

The weeping woman sat in the first row of King Emmanuel Baptist Church in Adams Morgan, mourning her boy.

“Oh, my baby,” she sobbed, as a gray casket lid closed over the face of 21-year-old Jamal Coates, who was killed last week not far from where mourners gathered to pay their last respects today.

Coates was remembered as gregarious and fun, a dreamer, a dear friend. He was also remembered as another victim of the violence and bloodshed that has long stained this city. His funeral services, which were held amid a police presence, also served as a call for levelheadedness before gunfire, for restraint over reactionary outbursts, and for creating a better community instead of focusing on feuds.

“Now to all you young fellas, let me tell you something,” one man said during the funeral. “Use your head. Not your fist.”

Coates died Sept. 28 during a chaotic shooting and car crash on U Street NW. Police say shots were fired at a car that Coates was in, which sped away and overturned at a nearby intersection. An autopsy found that he suffered gunshot wounds to his cheekbone, bicep, and his head. Coates died shortly after attending funeral services for another young homicide victim, Ashley McRae, a 21-year-old Columbia Heights woman. But police have said Coates death wasn’t an act of retaliation McRae’s.

“He just had this giant spirit. Easily one of the funniest people I’ve ever met,” Bryan Weaver, a former candidate for the Ward 1 D.C. Council seat and an acquaintance of Coates’, said after the services. “And unfortunately, I think he’s just going to be defined by the end but not necessarily how he lived his life.”

For Weaver, Coates was someone who might have stumbled early but wanted to straighten up. As a youth, Coates ran with the 1-7 crew, a gang often found hanging around 17th and Euclid streets NW. But he had made changes. He traveled to Guatemala with Weaver and with other youth, and then landed internships with the city's Department of Parks and Recreation.

"It just goes on and on and on," Weaver said after the services, when discussing the continued violence in the city. "I think in my eight years as an ANC commissioner, it's been 10 kids who I've known well who have died. And it gets frustrating. We've had so many people who are just innocent people who have been caught in the crossfire. I don't know what it takes for us to stop collectively as a city. Just say enough."

There was no gunfire or violence at Coates' funeral. Only pleas for a better, more peaceful community.

"September the 28th was a nightmare to this mother and this family," Pastor Daryl Bell told the mourners. "But you can end the nightmare by living out Jamal's dreams."

Coates, a Dallas Cowboys fan, will be interred in Maryland, not far from FedEx Field. A Cowboys hat rests in his casket.

One man, Brandon Miller, has been arrested in Coates' death. He faces a first-degree murder charge and is expected to appear in court later this month. Police have said they believe at least one other suspect in the shooting remains at large.

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