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Funeral company owner allegedly shot, killed pallbearer during burial of 10-year-old murder victim

Police charged a funeral service company owner Wednesday, one day after he allegedly shot two people during a burial that his company was organizing at a Maryland cemetery.

One of the victims, 30-year-old Ronald Steven, was a pallbearer, police said. He died at the hospital shortly after Tuesday's shooting at Washington National Cemetery. A second victim, an adult woman, suffered a graze wound. 

The Prince George's County Police Department's Homicide Unit charged 48-year-old Wilson Chavis with first and second-degree murder, attempted first and second-degree murder, and related charges. 

Police in Maryland arrested Wilson Chavis after a deadly shooting at a funeral. Prince George's County Police Department

The violence erupted during the funeral of 10-year-old Arianna Davis, who was shot while riding in a car with her family in Washington, D.C. on Mother's Day, CBS Baltimore reported. Davis died three days later. The FBI is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the girl's shooter.

After the deadly incident at the cemetery, Prince George's County Major Crimes Division Commander David Blazer said the shooting was not related to the funeral.

"We believe that this was a dispute totally unrelated to what was going on with the funeral, the circumstances leading up to the funeral, the circumstances to the investigation in D.C., this was totally independent of that," Blazer said Tuesday.

The police investigation revealed that the suspect, who owns the company that was providing funeral and burial services for Davis, confronted two people just as the service was about to get underway, one of whom was a pallbearer at Davis's funeral, officials said. The people he confronted were affiliated with a separate funeral service company with which the suspect has a "long-standing" business dispute.

"Several funeral attendees became upset with Chavis and confronted him over his behavior," police said in a Facebook post. "The preliminary investigation suggests Chavis pulled out a gun and fired two shots, striking both victims."

The suspect then fled the cemetery in his vehicle and was taken into custody after he was identified during a traffic stop. He was in the custody of the Department of Corrections Wednesday. 

Shootings have happened at funeral homes and cemeteries in the recent past. Several people were shot outside a funeral home in northeastern Washington, D.C. after a service in April. Six people were injured in a shooting outside a Pittsburgh church where a funeral was underway for a gun violence victim in October of last year. In July 2020, 15 people were wounded in a shooting at a funeral home in Chicago.

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