Landscaper in D.C. fatally shot on the job

A landscaper working along a residential street in Northeast Washington was fatally shot in the back Thursday afternoon after he confronted a man he saw trying to break into a truck, according to D.C. police.

The victim, identified as Bacilio Villatoro, 57, lived in Silver Spring, Md., with one of his two adult sons, and had a wife and grown daughter in El Salvador, according to his brother-in-law.

Police said Villatoro was shot about 12:40 p.m. in the 3000 block of Adams Street NE, in a neighborhood that has a mix of industrial buildings and private homes and is lined by New York and South Dakota avenues.

Dustin Sternbeck, a D.C. police spokesman, said that Villatoro saw a man tampering with a truck and began to argue with him. Sternbeck said the man pulled out a gun and Villatoro turned and began to run.

Sternbeck said Villatoro “tried to flee and was shot in the back.”

Villatoro died at the scene and police said the gunman drove off in a black Chevrolet Impala. No arrests were made as of Friday. Police said it appears no property was taken. It was not immediately clear if the truck belonged to the landscaping company or another worker.

“He was a quiet person,” said the brother-in-law, 53-year-old Jose Villatoro, who shares a common last name with his in-law but is not blood-related. “If somebody aggravated him, he just left them alone. That’s the kind of person he was. Why did this happen to him?”

Villatoro was the District’s 151st homicide victim this year, a 2 percent drop from this time in 2021. His killing also broke a 10-day respite from deadly crime: Before Thursday, there had not been a homicide in D.C. since Sept. 11.

But the city continues to struggle with gun violence and homicides, coming off a year when it surpassed 200 killings for the first time since 2003. The violent crime, Jose Villatoro said, “is out of hand.”

The Gateway neighborhood where Villatoro was shot has had no other homicides this year, and police statistics show assaults with dangerous weapons have dropped compared to last year. But those statistics also show robberies have nearly doubled.

Jose Villatoro, who lives in Prince George’s County, said his brother-in-law came to the United States in the late 1980s and had worked alongside him breaking stones at a construction supply and rock quarry company in Bethesda. He said Bacilio Villatoro had recently left that work for the landscaping job.

The brother-in-law said others at the job site told him the attack appeared to be a robbery attempt. He said Bacilio Villatoro kept about $100 to $150 in his pockets for transportation and other needs.

Jose Villatoro said his brother-in-law had sent money to his wife and other relatives in El Salvador. He said Villatoro enjoyed being with friends and watching sports, and while quiet and sparse with words, he “liked to be with people who were talking.”

Relatives in Maryland and in El Salvador are discussing burial arrangements.

“He died working,” Jose Villatoro said. “That’s the kind of guy he was.”

Teo Armus contributed to this report.

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