Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
E-mail this article
Print this Article

Martin Hawkins Jr. was gunned down on a La Plata street while walking home from a friend’s house the night of April 18.

Two days later detectives with the Charles County Sheriff’s Office went door to door in the Phoenix Run neighborhood where Hawkins, 32, lived. They passed out nearly 200 fliers with details about the shooting and a reward for anonymous tips leading to an arrest.

Five weeks later, Nicole Hawkins is still waiting for police to arrest the man who murdered her big brother and she has grown increasingly frustrated by a seeming lack of progress in the case.

Hawkins, a Bowie resident, said she calls the detective investigating the shooting “at least once a week” and has been told each time that there is no new information to share. Though she recognizes that investigators are “trying to build a case,” Hawkins said that does not make the lack of information any less discouraging.

“We absolutely understand the pain the victim’s family is going through and we recognize their need for answers,” sheriff’s spokeswoman Diane Richardson said in an email. “In fact, we’ve shared as much information with them as we could. However, there are times when releasing specific information could jeopardize an investigation, and we are simply unwilling to take that risk.”

Hawkins said her frustration is compounded by the fact that she has heard the same story about the night her brother was killed from several people who live in his neighborhood.

“Everyone’s been telling me the same thing about this guy,” she said.

The narrative begins a couple of weeks before the shooting, she said, when her brother was teaching their young cousin how to ride a bike.

When the girl accidentally ran her bike into a parked Cadillac, it incensed the owner’s girlfriend, who began yelling at Martin Hawkins Jr. The shouts drew out the car’s owner, who joined the argument, Nicole Hawkins said. The altercation eventually ended, and Hawkins and his cousin walked away.

A couple of weeks later, on the night of April 18, Hawkins was walking home from a friend’s house when he was spotted by the girlfriend.

Several people have told Nicole Hawkins that the woman then called her boyfriend, who confronted Martin Hawkins Jr. on the street.

That night police were patrolling along Charles Street in La Plata when they heard multiple gunshots at around 8:45 p.m. They found Martin Hawkins Jr. lying dead in the roadway, near the 200 block of Kent Avenue.

Nicole Hawkins is not the only one who has heard these stories. So has Del. C.T. Wilson (D-Charles), a former prosecutor who called on the community to step up and help the police catch Martin Hawkins’ killer.

“There are plenty of individuals in our community that know exactly what happened, who know the altercations he may have had,” Wilson said. “I’m not questioning the efforts of our law enforcement because they can only do so much. It’s our job to step up and fill that void. There are people in the community who know exactly why he was shot and who shot him.

“Snitching is not when you protect your community. ... When you know somebody was murdered in your community and you have evidence and you know you can give it anonymously and you don’t, you’re just being a coward.”

Richardson said in the email that detectives have developed leads in the case, but not enough to make an arrest.

“At this point, we are continuing to work on these leads and we are building a case. We did hear from people who called to tell us about rumors they heard,” she said. “While the information is helpful, we need more. We need to hear from people who have direct knowledge of the shooting.”

In the weeks before Hawkins’ slaying, county students and residents organized a pair of rallies to protest the February shooting of Trayvon Martin, a Florida teen whose death has made national headlines and galvanized justice-seeking movements across the country.

Wilson called it “sad” that Hawkins’ death has not engendered a similar response in Charles County. Instead, he feels the shooting has been met with “apathy.”

“To me, you don’t have to go to Florida to find injustice. You’ve got it right here. We’ve got a 32-year-old man who was shot in the back in a cowardly matter. He was shot just like Trayvon Martin, but here we’re a small community and we don’t even have the leads to make an arrest,” Wilson said. “He was a shot in a cowardly act of violence and I haven’t heard any outcry from these same community members that I heard over the Trayvon Martin case.”

Nicole Hawkins said her brother had a rough childhood, bouncing among group and foster homes, and had a disability that kept him from working consistently and burdened him with a quick temper.

“He wasn’t the type to start fights, but he wouldn’t run away from them, either,” she said. “He was disturbed. He’s been hurt all his life. He was always abused and neglected.”

She said her brother had been in several fights before and stolen things to get by, but that he had recently begun to turn his life around. He had become involved with his church and was keeping his temper under control, “and then this happened.”

Nicole Hawkins said her family was not allowed to see her brother’s body until a funeral home picked it up from the coroner’s office.

They still do not know how many times or exactly where he was shot, except for what they discovered at the funeral home.

As her brother’s body lay in its coffin, Nicole Hawkins went to comb his hair. She pulled back his long locks and found a bullet hole in the left side of his jaw.

Later, when his widow, from whom Hawkins was separated, went to slide his wedding ring on his finger, she had to remove a pair of white gloves the funeral home had put on him. The gloves initially puzzled the family, but they soon realized what they were for — to conceal the bullet hole in his left hand.

Nicole Hawkins assumes it was a defensive wound, but she can’t be sure. It’s only one among many questions she has about how her brother was killed.

“The loss of a life anywhere is a tragedy. ... Some people may be fearful, but again if you don’t stand up for your community and the lives of your citizens then who will? How can you expect it to ever be better?” Wilson asked. “I hope somebody steps up.”