Jamal Coates, 21, from Washington D.C. was attending the funeral of his friends sister when an altercation broke out leading to shot being fired. As the story goes tensions among the attendees started heating up, and Coates decided to do something about it. According to longtime Ward 1 activist Bryan Weaver, he asked people to take it easy, ‘to knock it off.’
The appeal didn’t work. The commotion merely intensified, changing U Street from a hip lunch destination to a crime corridor. In fast succession, the gang hostilities produced a shootout and a Hollywood-caliber car accident. They also claimed the life of the 21-year-old Coates.
Coates grew up not far from that intersection, in Jubilee Housing, with his mother and sisters. His father wasn’t a part of his childhood. Into the resulting vacuum stepped the boys from 1-7. ‘It’s easy to see why the 1-7 had such a tremendous pull,’ says Weaver. ‘Their history and influence ran deep. A lot of his closest friends were 1-7.’
And Coates did stuff that gang members do. In the words of a D.C. police officer with experience handling 1-7: ‘He’s been shot at, he’s been caught with a gun, he’s done robberies,’ the officer says, referring to Coates’ teen years. ‘He just didn’t care. His whole attitude–catch me if you can, nothing that you do is going to make me change.’ Another cop recalls all his interactions with Coates being negative.
One thing is for sure: Coates had trouble hiding from the cops, or anyone, for that matter. He was an outsize kid from his early teens. At 13, he was without a doubt the biggest kid on the corner. He was known as ‘Big Pun.’
‘His size, of that younger generation—he was not going to take any shit from the older guys. He had a certain degree of backbone to him. If it manifested in something positive, it was great. When it was petty, he just couldn’t let stuff go,’ says Weaver.
If the shooting does turn out to be related to the funeral procession — and all indications currently point to that conclusion — it’s worth noting that this isn’t the first time that funerals have been targeted for high-profile retaliation by D.C. gunmen.
In the Post’s definitive report about March’s South Capitol Street shootings which killed four, it was revealed that those gunmen originally planned a hit during a funeral at St. Augustine Church, which is located but blocks away from Walker Memorial.
Also, DeOnté Rawlings’ brother George was killed while trying to board a Metrobus after leaving a funeral service in November 2009.