Travis Washington fell into the party scene as a teenager, but the years had turned him into something of a homebody, friends and relatives said, who preferred to stay in, to spend time with his children, listen to jazz, cook or watch whatever basketball game was on TV.
“He was kind of a loner. He spent 80 percent of the time in the house,” his older sister, Shantoya Young, recalled recently.
And so some saw it as a cruel twist of fate when Washington was shot to death at his home on the city’s North Side last week, in the city’s 11th slaying of the year.
Washington, 30, was gunned down by an unknown assailant or assailants, shortly before midnight on Thursday. He was pronounced dead at the scene of multiple gunshot wounds, an autopsy later confirmed.
A 39-year-old suspect was arrested in Minneapolis on Saturday. The man is being held without bail in Hennepin County Jail on suspicion of murder (the Star Tribune generally doesn’t name suspects who haven’t been charged). It wasn’t immediately clear whether he was one of the two shadowy figures who were seen creeping away from the house shortly after witnesses reported hearing “muffled gunshots” about 11:14 p.m. on Thursday.
Authorities have not yet released a motive for the slaying, nor have they ruled out its connection to a romantic quarrel involving one of Washington's former girlfriends.
But family members and friends described Washington as a dedicated family man and homebody, who steered clear of the sort of drama that some believe led to his death.
“He was a very carrying, very loyal person,” said Jerry Hildreth, who grew up playing basketball with Washington at the North Side Boys & Girls Club, and later would frequent some of the same nightclubs. “Ain’t nobody perfect, but I just can’t see him doing something to somebody that would get him killed.”
Washington, he said, was a tough-as-nails streetball player who fashioned his game after his hero on the court, former NBA superstar Allen Iverson. And while he never suited up for the basketball team at North High School, the players there “respected him,” Hildreth said.
Another longtime friend, who asked to be identified only by her first name, Elisha, for safety, recalled Washington as a “sweetheart.”
“I can't see how or why anyone would have reason to take his life he was a very good friend great father, brother, uncle, etc,” she wrote in a Facebook message.
Young, the sister, recalled that Washington was never far from the kitchen, having inherited their late father’s love of cooking, and after high school earned a culinary degree from Job Corps in St. Paul. She added that he often went straight home after work, to spend time with family, to listen to jazz, and to play dominoes and chess.
Rest in peace to Kirk jr. and Travis Washington.— DJ STAGE ONE (@djstageone) June 17, 2016
“Travis just had that smile and that charisma that would just catch anybody’s heart,” she said, choking back tears.
A few days after the shooting, friends and family gathered for what has become an all-too-familiar ritual. Several mourners released a cluster of balloons into the sky. Others kneeled next to a makeshift memorial of candles and stuffed animals on the sidewalk. “He up there,” a sobbing woman told a young child, pointing upwards. “Daddy up there.” A video of the scene was later posted on Facebook.
Washington's death was the second tragedy to befall the family in recent months. In early April, they buried his older brother, Kirk, a popular activist and poet whose work explored themes of racism, housing inequities, police brutality and politics.
“I don’t have any brothers left. They took away my older brother and now my baby brother,” Young said. She had lost “two people who worshiped me. They really cherished their sisters,” she said.
Kirk Washington Jr. was killed on April 4, when his Volvo station wagon was struck by head-on by a car which crossed the median on Interstate 94 near Hwy. 280. He was 41.
In declaring May 9 as "Kirk Washington Day" in Minneapolis, Mayor Betsy Hodges remembering Kirk as a "creative catalyst for respect, awareness, wisdom, truth and health" in the city.
On Friday, after news of Travis Washington’s death broke, she offered similar words of support for the Washington family.
“Last night, another act of gun violence took a life in North Minneapolis,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “The neighborhood and our city are mourning the loss of this life. Once again, my heart goes out (to) the family.”