A 13-year-old boy, who was only in the seventh grade, paid with his life after picking the wrong victim to allegedly carjack in Washington, D.C.
As William Reynolds sat in his personal vehicle in the 600 block of D Street NW, near the D.C. Superior Court building, he was approached by two youths. It was shortly after 10 p.m. on a Saturday evening, and the two juveniles allegedly demanded Reynolds hand over his vehicle. Unfortunately for the young suspects, they were targeting the wrong victim, and one of them was about to pay for that mistake dearly.
Unbeknownst to the alleged carjacking suspects, Reynolds was an armed federal security officer who was waiting for his shift to start, The Blaze reported. As the pair ordered him out of his vehicle, one of them “had his hand in his front waistband pocket as if he had a handgun,” Reynolds told investigators, according to a police report cited by the Washington Post. That’s when the officer decided to act.
As William Reynolds exited his vehicle, “he produced a handgun and shot one of the suspects,” the officer told investigators. Both teens began to run toward 7th Street, according to a video report from WTTG-TV about the failed carjacking, but one of them — later identified as Vernard Toney Jr — didn’t make it far. Having been shot once in the chest, the 13-year-old alleged carjacker fell to the ground.
Officers found the wounded juvenile at the scene, and he was taken to the hospital, but it was too late. Vernard Toney Jr of southeast Washington died the following day. No gun was found on the fatally shot teen. However, his accomplice, who allegedly had his hand in his pocket and Reynolds believed to be armed, ran off and was still on the loose at the time Toney Jr’s death was initially reported.
William Reynolds was not arrested and reportedly cooperated with an investigation into the shooting. Police indicated that they had the officer’s legally owned gun and were reviewing video from security cameras, the Post furthered. The paper added that the shooting occurred “amid heightened concern over carjackings, which had soared 108 percent in the District” in 2023, “compared with the same period in 2022.”
Not only were carjackings up, with 821 reported as of October 2023, but according to the paper, carjackings involving juveniles are also up. In addition, violent crime in D.C. was also reportedly up 41 percent in 2023, compared with the same period in 2022, according to police statistics.
While we usually celebrate criminals getting what they deserve, it’s hard to find any joy in a 13-year-old not only living a life of crime but also losing his life to the streets and his own bad decisions. While we often picture hardened thugs as the suspects in these stories, Vernard Toney Jr.’s principal painted a different picture of the boy, calling the seventh grader at Kelly Miller Middle School in Northeast D.C. “smart, funny, and talented,” according to NBC Washington.
“He had a natural comedic ability and loved to make people laugh, especially when he would joke that he was the principal of Kelly Miller MS. Vernard also loved to play basketball and spend his free time on the court with his friends,” his principal said in a letter to families. Sadly, however, there was apparently another side to the middle schooler, who was no stranger to the police.
Sources say Vernard Toney Jr. had been accused of a string of previous carjackings and had been arrested five months prior to the alleged carjacking that had cost him his life. He was 12 at the time. Carjackings by kids. That’s what we have here, and it’s tragic. But perhaps most tragic of all is that it might have been prevented if the judge involved in Toney Jr.’s prior arrest had decided that detention was better than releasing him to offend again.
While we want to be sensitive to the child’s grieving parents and classmates, we also have to realize that this boy’s actions cost others dearly. William Reynolds was simply trying to go to work and earn an honest living. Now, he has to live with the death of a 13-year-old boy on his hands—a boy who was roaming the streets of D.C. at 10 p.m. on a Saturday evening, apparently without any adult supervision, and mistakes were made—mistakes that Vernard Toney Jr. paid for with his life.