Less than four hours after learning that two of their classmates had been shot and killed the night before, the Northwest High School Jaguars gathered on Tuesday, June 6, in Washington, D.C. to celebrate the graduating Class of 2017.
It was to be the last time that the 517 members of the Class of 2017 would be together under one roof. The Northwest community has known since January, after the death of Nigel Hendrickson, that one member of their class wasn’t going to be with them at Constitution Hall.
However, nobody was prepared for the news of the brutal shooting deaths of Artem Ziberov and Shadi Najjar, which happened at about 10:45 pm on Monday, June 5 — the evening before graduation. Montgomery County Police confirmed, at 8:56 am on graduation day morning that the two classmates were found shot to death in a car in Montgomery Village. Police have released very few details about the incident and have not released any information about possible suspects.
Montgomery County Public Schools had grief counselors on hand at Constitution Hall to comfort students dealing the shocking death of two classmates.
Once the Class of 2017 had processed into the hall and been seated, Northwest Principal Jimmy D’Andrea broke from the program to offer a moment of silence for Hendrickson, Ziberov, and Najjar.
Immediately after the moment of silence to honor the fallen, D’Andrea addressed the Class of 2017. “I knew all three of these gentlemen,” D’Andrea told the hall. “I knew Nigel from this year and had the honor of being Artem and Shadi’s principal both in middle school and now in high school. When I spoke to Atem’s mother this morning, while she was very upset her words to me were, ‘I hope everyone has a great celebration today,’ let’s honor the memory of these three gentlemen by celebrating the accomplishments of this class.”
Later, during the formal Principal’s Remarks section of the program D’Andrea, who was officiating over his first Commencement as Principal of Northwest since being appointed last June, spoke more about the members of the Class of 2017 that would not walk across the stage and receive their diplomas.
He first spoke of Nigel Hendrickson a 17-year-old who had died Thursday, Jan. 12. “Nigel Hendrickson moved to Germantown from New York during his 10th Grade year,” said D’Andrea. “He performed exceptionally well in very challenging classes. He had tremendous artistic ability and had a positive energy about him that permeated all of his interactions. Sadly Nigel passed on January 12, 2017.”
D’Andrea invited Nigel’s mother, Esther Hendrickson to the stage to posthumously receive her son’s diploma.
When he returned to the microphone, D’Andrea began to speak about the two members of the Class of 2017 who were lost the night before.
“Shadi Adi Najjar, was a natural learner who had a natural interest in knowing and understanding,” said D’Andrea. “He was described by his teachers as extremely bright, able to pick up concepts quickly as was evidenced by his choice to take higher level courses including upper-level calculus and a philosophy class at Montgomery College. He once said that a one of his personal strength’s was his ability to overcome challenges. Any assignment Shadi completed was well done, and he enjoyed learning most when he felt challenged.”
“One teacher described him as the one student you could always count on to help you during the day,” D’Andrea told the Class of 2017, “and the one who always leaned ov er to help a classmate when they were struggling. Despite keeping to himself, those who knew him well described him as incredibly kind and personable.”
The Northwest principal began to speak of Artem Ziberov.
“Artem’s counselor describes him as one of the friendliest and nicest students he has ever worked with. He always took the time to ask him how he was, and those who knew him would agree that his dry sense of humor was paired with truly kind spirit and gentle nature. Artem enjoyed helping others as a member of the National Honor Society, a senior patrol leader in the Boy Scouts, and by earning over 260 hours of community service. Despite balancing school and work he excelled and planned on attending the University of Maryland in the fall. He was tri-lingual and working on adding Japanese as fourth language wanting to pursue a career in International Relations.”
Ziberov had earned the highest rank in Boy Scouts, Eagle in December 2015 with Boy Scout Troop 489 in Germantown. As part of his Eagle Scout project he constructed 30 wooden squirrel boxes, out of materials which he managed to get donated, for the Second Chance Wildlife Center in Gaithersburg.
“One of his teachers shared that he consistently signed his papers, ‘The One and Only Artem’,” said D’Andrea, “and she will always remember him that way.”
According to Fox 5 DC, the two boys left Najjar’s house to head up to Damascus to give extra tickets for the graduation to a friend in Damascus. It is unclear if they ever reached Damascus, but somehow the boys ended up on Gallery Court in Montgomery Village at 10:46 pm when shots rang out.
Montgomery County Police say that detectives are continuing to work this case in an effort to find out who may have killed the boys on a nice street with single-family homes. The audio incident was captured on a neighbor’s home security system. The audio shows that the boys were killed by a barrage of 22 shots, which blew out the windows on the Honda, which Najjar was driving.
Montgomery County detectives urge anyone who may have information about this double homicide to contact the Major Crimes Division at 240-773-5070. For those who wish to remain anonymous, Crime Solvers of Montgomery County is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for any information that leads to the arrest of the suspect(s). Tipsters can call Crime Solvers of Montgomery County toll-free at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).
Top: Members of Northwest High School’s Class of 2017 remembered three classmates who would not join them in walking across the stage. One who died in January and two more brutally killed on the night before graduation.
Next: The two teens Artem and Shadi.
Next: Northwest High School Prinicpal Jimmy D’Andrea shares memories of the three members of the Class of 2017 who have lost their lives this year.
Next: Esther Hendrickson, mother of Nigel Hendrickson a member of the Class of 2017 who died in January receives her son’s diploma and flowers from Principal Jimmy D’Andrea.
Audio: A neighbor’s security video has captured the sounds of shots being fired at the time of the shooting on Gallery Place in Montgomery Village. Video courtesy MyMCMedia.org
Photos by Germantown Pulse.