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Cummings’ nephew killed in Va. shooting

Congressman Elijah Cummings speaking in Baltimore earlier this year. (File photo)

ANNAPOLIS — Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, a longtime advocate of gun control and better witness protection, is familiar with comforting the families of violent crime victims and speaking at victims’ funerals.

Now, his own family is grieving after his nephew was shot and killed. As Cumming prepared Monday to give his nephew’s eulogy, he continued urging anyone with information about the shooting near Old Dominion University in Virginia to contact police.

“There are people out there who know who did this, and basically what we have been concentrating on is urging people to come forward,” Cummings said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

The shooting early Friday killed 20-year-old Christopher Cummings, son of the congressman’s brother, James Cummings. The congressman described the shooting in his nephew’s off-campus apartment as random. Christopher Cummings’ roommate, Jake Carey, was taken to the hospital with what police described as life-threatening injuries. The hospital said Monday it would not release any information on his condition.

Police in Norfolk said Monday they are still investigating a motive for the shootings and seeking suspects. No arrests have been reported.

Cummings, a Democrat who has served in the House since 1996, has long been an advocate for gun control laws and witness protection. Cummings said it’s critical to make people feel more comfortable cooperating with police to put killers behind bars.

“If you don’t have the cooperation of the citizens with the police, our criminal justice system will be severely crippled, and that can only lead to chaos and a lot of criminal activity,” Cummings said.

His district includes a large portion of Baltimore, a city where authorities have long struggled to persuade witnesses of violent crime to step forward to help police.

Cummings has tried to comfort the parents and relatives of victims over the years. He also has experienced violent crime firsthand in his district. Cummings recalled arriving at a Catonsville gas station years ago, shortly after a man had been stabbed. He waited with the victim until first responders arrived. The man later died from his wounds, and Cummings met with the man’s wife.

Cummings is scheduled to deliver the eulogy for his nephew on Saturday at Victory Prayer Chapel in Baltimore.

“When it hits your house and it hits your family, I’ll tell you, it’s a lot different, because I think it gives you a far better understanding of what people are feeling in those circumstances, and you can also understand the pain and the anger and the desire for closure — that is, making sure that whoever might be responsible for an incident like this is brought to justice,” Cummings said.

Cummings said there had been four robberies on his nephew’s block in one month.

Based on his experience following Baltimore crime, he said, “If there were four reported, there were probably another two or three that weren’t.”

Both Christopher Cummings and Jake Carey were students at Old Dominion. Christopher Cummings had just finished his junior year. He grew up in Woodbridge, Va., and was studying criminal science. He was an honors graduate of Forest Park High School and a member of the Theta Chi fraternity, which held a candlelight vigil Saturday in his memory.

In a letter posted Saturday on the university’s website, Old Dominion President John Broderick expressed his condolences and talked about campus security efforts.

“We will also continue to urge city officials and landlords on additional safety measures for the off-campus neighborhood where this and other crimes occurred this semester,” Broderick said.