Mother of 8-year-old killed in Landover vows to keep his legacy alive

The mother of an 8-year-old boy shot and killed in Landover, Maryland, offered poignant memories of her son — while vowing to support his friends — at a candlelight vigil on Thursday night.

Peyton James “P.J.” Evans was shot on Tuesday while inside a relative’s home on Brightseat Road. Police said a man got out of a white sedan and started firing multiple rounds into an apartment building. They said P.J. was an innocent bystander.

His mother, Tiffani Evans, said P.J. was playing video games and enjoying “Taco Tuesday” when he was shot.

Evans gave an emotional speech about her son, an avid pee-wee football player for the Showcase Sharks. She was joined by many of his teammates at the vigil, held at Summerfield Park in Landover.

Evans said she is raising funds to support the team in P.J.’s honor. A GoFundMe page set up Antoine Dotson, P.J.’s uncle and godfather, has raised more than $21,000 out of a $25,000 goal.

Evans described her son, a rising third-grader, as “a big teddy bear.” But she said sometimes that didn’t work to his advantage as a football player.

“There was plenty of days when he wanted to give up. I’m not even going to lie to you all because there are going to be plenty of days when your youngest will want to give up, but P.J. never gave up,” she said.

In fact, the night he was killed, Evans said he was celebrating that he got a sack in an earlier scrimmage game.

Evans said her life was centered around her “baby boy.”

“He appreciated me. He appreciated my struggles. He appreciated everything that I gave to him. He did because he told me all the time,” she said.

“All you mothers out here, you all take time with your kids because I wouldn’t have it any other way and my son knew that until the day he died.

“Hug your kids. Tell your kids you love them every second, even when it’s getting on their nerves,” she said to laughter among the parents, reminiscing how P.J. would “get annoyed that his mom kissed him too much.”

But now, while she said P.J. is at peace, Evans admitted that she doesn’t know what she’s going to do with her life.

“I don’t know what I’m going to work for, so I’m going to work for these kids. My son would have it no other way,” she told the crowd, pledging that she would raise funds to support P.J.’s teammates.

“I’m going to live for you all because my son would not have it no other way,” she said.

“That’s my job, that’s my mission, that’s my promise to you all.”

Evans asked the crowd to join her in repeating an affirmation that she and her son said every day: “I believe in myself. I believe in myself. Without God, I’m nothing. And with God, I’m everything,” the crowd chanted.

Then they repeated the words of his mother: “P.J., I love you.”

WTOP’s Michelle Basch contributed to this report.

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Anna Gawel

Anna Gawel joined WTOP in 2020 and works in both the radio and digital departments. Anna Gawel has spent much of her career as the managing editor of The Washington Diplomat, which has been the flagship publication of D.C.’s diplomatic community for over 25 years.

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