Hundreds of friends and family members gathered in Olney the evening of Nov. 19, trying to understand the loss of Olijawon Griffin, who was fatally stabbed in Washington, D.C.'s, Woodley Park Metro station two days before.
Mourners honored Griffin, 18, who graduated from Sherwood High School in May, with candles, balloons and homemade signs. They stood on a field near Prince Philip Drive and Spartan Road, where “Owon” played football with his friends, according to Fitz Mofor, 17, a current Sherwood student.
In court documents, police said Griffin went into an Adams Morgan alley to buy marijuana from a group of young men shortly after midnight Saturday; when he returned, he said the men had attacked and robbed him at gunpoint, taking his black Helly Hansen jacket and an iPhone. Metropolitan Police said Griffin, of Olney, was stabbed about 1:15 a.m. Nov. 17 in the Metro station by the same people who initially robbed him. He later died of his injuries at a local hospital.
Family members have pushed for some of the teens to be charged as adults.
At the vigil, the Rev. Barry Moultrie, the youth pastor at Mt. Calvary Baptist Church in Rockville, spoke to the crowd and then prayed.
“This silent majority has to end — you guys have to stand up for what's right,” he told the crowd.
“You are the future of this country,” he said.
He prayed for the crowd, that they would have the strength not to join gangs, and “not to waste emotions on revenge.”
“That's for Owon, right?” a young boy asked his mother, watching some of the mourners let their balloons fly into the air.
Some of the members of the crowd had T-shirts saying “RIP Owon” and “GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN.”
One girl made a poster littered with notes from Griffin's friends. “I 3 U little big brova :)" one read.
Tonza Webb, a neighbor, said, “I'm still in shock, still thinking it's a dream and I'm going to wake up.”
From the field, the crowd walked down Spartan Road to Appomattox Avenue. There they gathered in a circle around Griffin's family to support them and offer recollections of their friend. Griffin's grandfather, James Griffin, spoke, stressing the positive.
“God has been the backbone of this family,” he said, adding “God has brought us through [earlier challenges].”
Anti-violence advocates asked the crowd not to seek revenge. Luis Cardona, Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services Violence Prevention Coordinator, said he's had to go to 35 similar vigils. He said he was invited by community members to attend the vigil.
“As adults it's imperative to support young people,” he said last week.
Not reacting with violence or retaliation is “something you always talk about,” he said.
“It's about using that opportunity to reflect ... and guide the young people so they can make good choices,” he said.
Olijawon's aunt, Derdria Gaynor, joked that she was Griffin's favorite aunt.
“He loved me when I had a lot, and he loved me when I had little,” she said.
Mia Robinson, another aunt, said, “I knew he was liked, but I didn't know he was loved this much.”
But in spite of the support, a hole remained.
“I love my brother so much, I'm so hurt and distraught,” Griffin's brother, Isaiah Hollins, said. “I hope everything goes right and [the District] prosecutes them to the fullest,” he said, speaking of his brother's alleged attackers.