In the lobby at T. C. Williams High School, there is an empty desk where students can leave notes. Many students are wearing yellow ribbons, and there are several giant sympathy cards for students to sign.
These are just some of the ways students are coping with the death of junior Schuyler Hamilton Jones, who was killed in Old Town last Saturday night.
Schuyler’s friends and family will attend a memorial service in his honor on Saturday, Sept. 20, at 1 p.m. in the auditorium at T.C. The football game between the Titans and West Potomac High School that was scheduled for that time has been postponed until Monday, Sept. 22, at 4 p.m. The game will be held at T.C.
Schuyler was 16. According to friends, he loved his family, his friends, skateboarding, guitar and rowing.
“He was just a great kid,” said Michele Brandon, the mother of one of Schuyler’s best friends. “There was a group of boys from the neighborhood, and they were always at each other’s houses.”
Last Saturday was no different. “The boys spent the day here,” Brandon said. “They have a band, so they spent some time rehearsing and some time outside skateboarding.”
Early Saturday evening, they decided to go out to dinner. The three friends went to Chipotle in Old Town. After dinner, they were joined by two other friends. They went to Market Square, a place where teens from throughout the area often go on warm evenings. They stayed at Market Square for some time, went to Ben and Jerry’s for ice cream and then returned to Market Square.
“They called me at around 10 p.m. and told me they were going to go to one of the boys’ houses to spend the night,” Brandon said. “I wanted to make sure that someone was going to pick them up, and there seemed to be some confusion about exactly who that was going to be.”
BRANDON SPOKE to the boys at around 10:40 p.m. and thought there was a plan. “It couldn’t have been 20 minutes later when my son called me and said that there had been an altercation and that Schuyler was hurt,” Brandon said.
Hurt, the police said, by another group of teenagers, at Market Square, with many people around. “This does not appear to be a random act,” said Amy Bertsch, a spokesperson for the Alexandria Police Department. “The group of teenagers, or at least some members of the group, seem to have known the victim.”
Police are continuing to investigate the incident and would not speculate about a motive. “What we know is that there was a violent incident and a 16-year-old is dead,” Bertsch said.
Brandon and others, however, said that there was a long-standing issue between Schuyler and one of the boys involved in the altercation. “We don’t know what it was all about,” Brandon said. “None of us had any idea. I now know that there was a fight during the summer and another incident last winter, but I had no idea this was happening before Saturday night.”
The four to five teenagers who were involved in the incident are not T.C. Williams students. “This is not about school rivalry,” said Alexandria mayor William D. Euille. “This is a tragic incident, and our hearts and prayers go out to Schuyler’s family and his friends.
“I hope that those friends will channel their grief into positive actions to remember Schuyler. We should all work harder to stop this type of senseless violence,” he said.
T.C.’s principal, John Porter, agreed. Two of Schuyler’s siblings have already graduated from T.C., so Porter knew the family well. “Schuyler was a great kid who was a good student and a good athlete,” Porter said. “Everyone who knew him will miss him.
“We have tried to find ways for the kids to express their grief and send notes of sympathy to Schuyler’s family. This incident has nothing to do with school rivalries. We all need to remember Schuyler and allow the police to conduct their investigation,” he said.
Tracy Hollingsworth, Schuyler's mother said, "We are very proud of Schuyler," she said. "We are proud that this 6-foot, 5-inch, 170 pound boy was able to show the maturity to say to those kids, even after he had been hit, 'I don't want to fight,' and he didn't."
At least one of the young people who was allegedly involved in the incident on Saturday night is reportedly from Bishop Ireton, a Catholic high school in Alexandria.
THE SUPERINTENDENT of the Arlington Diocesan school system also released a statement. “The Catholic Diocese of Arlington, Bishop Ireton High School and the entire Diocesan school system express their deepest sympathy and compassion to the family of Schuyler Jones, who died tragically this weekend as a result of violence. The Diocese joins in condemning such violence in any form. The matter is the subject of a criminal investigation, and Bishop Ireton High School has no information concerning this tragic incident.
"Although this tragedy occurred over the weekend and was not related to school property or activities, any persons with information are urged to contact the proper authorities and cooperate. The Diocese of Arlington and its school community will continue to express its sympathy and offer prayers to the family of the victim, for all who mourn his loss, and for all families involved,” said Dr. Timothy J. McNiff.
Like Porter, Brandon is urging students to allow the police to conduct their investigation. “This is a tragedy for everyone involved,” she said. “The kids all know each other, and many of them grew up together. We need to allow the police to complete their investigation and not jump to conclusions that may or may not be correct.”
That investigation is likely to take some time. “There were a lot of people at Market Square or in the vicinity on Saturday night,” said S. Randolph Sengel, Alexandria’s commonwealth’s attorney. “We are interviewing everyone, and based on those interviews, are reinterviewing people. Also, we spent several hours at the medical examiner’s office on Monday, and the preliminary results of the autopsy are inconclusive, so more tests are required. That could take two to three weeks. In the meantime, the investigation is proceeding as it should.”
The family has requested that those who wish to do so should make a donation to the T.C. Williams High School Crew Boosters, a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization. Following the memorial service on Saturday, there will be a reception at the boat house. Students hope to raise enough money to purchase a boat in Schuyler's name.