Her son’s first day of preschool was almost a month away, and Maurica Manyan wanted to do everything she could to make the occasion as magical as it felt when she was a kid.
So the 25-year-old saved up enough money to surprise Damauri with a trip to Walmart, where she dreamed about telling him to pick out all the crayons and colored pencils he could find, her family said.
She would never get the chance to take her 4-year-old shopping. Last week, in a room in the lower level of the Anacostia Neighborhood Library, Maurica was fatally shot by a retired D.C. police lieutenant who was training her to become a full-fledged library police officer, authorities said. The job was supposed to be a steppingstone, she told family, toward her goal of becoming a crime scene investigator one day.
Jesse Porter, the 58-year-old former lieutenant hired by the library system to host trainings for its officers, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the Thursday killing, which some witnesses described as the result of a joke gone wrong. His attorney could not be reached for comment.
Retired D.C. police lieutenant charged in shooting of library officer
“She had her whole life ahead of her,” said Maurica’s uncle, Steven Hoskins, sitting outside their family home in Maryland, five days later.
Up the steps behind him and through the white front door was where Maurica had grown up. As a toddler, family said, she dreamed of becoming president of the United States. As a woman, she was determined to build a good life for her and her son.
Pictures of her line the living room walls. Maurica as a baby. Maurica at 9 years old, dressed in stripes with a beaming smile. Maurica playing basketball and soccer and softball. Maurica at her high school graduation.
Born in Beltsville, Md., to Jamaican immigrants, she was raised in a close-knit family. Dinner was always together, and all six relatives who lived in the home would eat Maurica’s favorite jerk chicken. She and her mom wore matching shirts and pajama sets. Her brother, Radcliffe Manyan, was her best friend.
The siblings grew up together, sharing everything from earphones to hobbies. They played sports side by side, with Maurica often joking that she would have become a professional basketball player if she had her brother’s height, family said. When they had children of their own two years apart, Maurica and Radcliffe decided to raise their kids as if they were siblings.
“She was my best friend. She was the person I called every day,” said Radcliffe, 23. “I just wanted to catch up to her, to be more like her.”
He especially admired her love for her work as a library police officer. Radcliffe said his sister was fascinated by crime TV shows and had an intense interest in solving problems. Maurica studied criminal justice at Bowie State University before she had to drop out for financial reasons, her family said. She decided to pursue criminal-justice-related jobs in government and work her way back to school, they said.
Maurica was a security guard before she was hired to be a library police officer in February. Around that time, she bought a house of her own in Indian Head, Md., for the first time to live in with her dad and her son, family members said.
Radcliffe and Sherene Manyan, Maurica’s mom, said they remember how excited Maurica was when she talked about training to become an officer. One evening, the family sat around the dining room together, studying the names and locations of D.C.’s 26 libraries.
Now, Sherene was sitting steps away from that table, holding a framed picture of her deceased daughter.
“It is so unreal to us,” she said.
Just before 4 p.m. Thursday, Sherene said, a police officer called, notifying family that there had been an accident at work involving Maurica. A team of officers was on their way to the house to tell the family more, the officer said.
Panicking, Sherene and her family begged the officer for more answers. When that failed, they turned to Google. They saw an article saying that a library police officer had been shot during a training session.
“Oh, my God,” Sherene recalled saying. “Don’t tell me that was Maurica.”
Forty minutes later, police confirmed that it was. Her daughter had been posing for a class photo at the end of a day of learning how to use extendible batons, when she paused to fix her hair and take off her face mask, according to charging documents in the case. At that point, her trainer walked out of the photo line, picked up his handgun and shot her, according to the documents.
Witnesses interviewed by police said it seemed Porter meant to be playful, poking fun at Maurica for taking a long time to get ready for the photo. A D.C. police officer who responded to the scene said she heard Porter say something like: “I thought I had my training gun. Why did I do this? Is she okay?” according to charging documents.
“That’s the biggest slap in the face — that somebody of that caliber could do this,” Monique Simpson, Maurica’s cousin, said Tuesday.
“Maurica knew the difference between a real gun and a fake gun, and she was not a lieutenant,” Radcliffe said, adding that his sister had taught him about the importance of firearms. “How could have he not known? That is what’s killing me.”
Radcliffe said he had talked to his sister a few hours before she was killed and she sent him a job posting for a mechanic position and urged him to apply. He changed the topic to discuss their plans for the weekend, when they were supposed to take their dad to New Jersey for his birthday.
Instead of holding a birthday cookout, the family is planning a funeral. And family members said they are trying to wrap their head around how to tell Damauri that his mom will never come home.
On Tuesday, the 4-year-old bounded around the living room as if there were a party going on. Piles of food were on the dining room table, and cousins and aunts were wandering in and out of the house.
Then Damauri asked when “Maur Maur,” as he called his mom, was coming to pick him up.
No one in the house could bring themselves to answer.