Mario Whitfield, 24, was gunned down outside a Westview Court home around 4:45 a.m. Thursday. He had just left a party on West 24th Street with the brother of the woman who hosted the party and they were talking as they sat on a curb when they were approached by a sprinting male, according to police.
The brother said he ran west down West 24th Street and turned around to see Whitfield running and the man chasing him. That’s when four or five shots went off, he said.
Frank Whitfield, a cousin, said Mario was trying to seek a better life and was in the process of applying for jobs. He wanted to set a good example for his daughter, Frank Whitfield said, and hoped to one day open his own business.
“He was very business-oriented,” he said. “He was very fashionable. He always presented himself well. He had just mentioned to his brother a couple weeks ago that he was looking for a job because he wanted change. He wanted to do right by his daughter.
“He was saying, ‘I’m tired. I want to do better for my daughter.’ ”
Frank Whitfield, 24, said his cousin could have done anything he wanted. People were drawn to him, he said, and they wanted to be his friend almost immediately after meeting him.
“If you ever came in contact with him you just never forgot,” he said. “You noticed him. He was funny. He was caring. It stuck with you.”
Another cousin, Tondi Whitfield, agreed that Mario was incredibly popular and guaranteed his memorial service will be standing room only.
“He genuinely loved everybody,” she said. “He genuinely helped out the neighborhood kids. He genuinely played basketball with the neighborhood kids. … He genuinely paid for their ice cream when he would feed them. He played with them. He joked with them. He told them to do the right thing.”
This was already a sad time for the Whitfield family because Sept. 9 marks the fifth anniversary of the death of Tondi’s sister, Andrea Whitfield, who was killed by her boyfriend, Justin Johnson, at the age of 19. Johnson is currently serving an 18-years-to-life sentence at Trumbull Correctional Institution.
Frank Whitfield admitted that, as wonderful as his cousin was, he also had a “dark side,” which included convictions for discharging a firearm, possession of marijuana and trespassing.
He was charged on Aug. 12 with domestic violence and aggravated burglary for allegedly choking and punching the mother of his 2-year-old daughter after allegedly breaking into her apartment. He did not have any prior convictions or charges for domestic violence, as was reported in a story Friday.
Frank Whitfield said he and his cousin would talk about these infractions and Mario would always express his sorrow for past mistakes.
“He desired to do right,” Frank Whitfield said. “I remember us sitting down one day and we’re just talking about making change and how hard it is to change. My whole transformation came because of my faith in Christ and I remember sharing that with him and he was so receptive of it. We prayed together before he left that day.”
Frank Whitfield said more than anything he wants people to know how great a person Mario was despite his faults.
“You hear stories when people die they say, ‘Oh he was such a good guy,’ and they just say that because of their own comfort, but Mario was truly, I can truly say, that Mario was a good guy,” he said. “Like I said he cared. He was a giver.”
Contact Adam Wright at 329-7155 or firstname.lastname@example.org.