Montgomery County, Maryland police have arrested and charged three Hispanic males with the murder of two local teenagers. 17-year-old Shadi Adi Najjar and 18-year-old Artem Ziberov were shot the night before their high school graduation as they found themselves in a parked car in Montgomery Village. One teen was shot 10 times and the other four times, although the police did not specify which victim was which in that statistic.

The men charged were later identified as 19-year-old Roger Garcia, 24-year-old Edgar Garcia-Gaona and 25-year-old Jose Canales-Yanez. All three were charged with two counts of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. According to Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger, it is believed that Najjar may have robbed the girlfriend of Canales-Yanez in December of last year. The girlfriend claimed in a police report that a blue Honda Civic approached her as she was walking and forcibly removed her iPad from her hands. Therefore, it’s possible that this killing was retaliatory in nature. As for Ziberov, they are still trying to determine whether he was also involved in the previous incident or if this was just a case of being “in the wrong place at the wrong time”, as Manger put it.  According to a police report, one person with knowledge of the situation said that they were together in a trip to sell graduation tickets to Garcia; Garcia later claimed to not even know who Najjar or Ziberov were and the he attends Northwest High School, the same school Najjar and Ziberoy were graduating from. After the fact, police found that ammunition similar to that found on the crime scene was scattered across the residence of Garcia-Gaona, who lives in Gaithersburg.

Despite this story, Adi Najjar, father of Shadi Adi Najjar, has been vocal calling this version a “big lie”. “He is such a sweet person. Loving, lovable person. He would never try to harm anybody,” is how he responded to the allegations that Shadi Adi Najjar was involved in a robbery. The theory that the father has been espousing was that this was random gang violence. “I know there is more than three because I believe this is a gang… I believe this is a gang and there’s a lot to the story than we know,” Adi Najjar said. He speculated that it could’ve been a situation where they were trying to recruit his son into the gang and he refused. Police are still investigating to confirm motives.

The day after the murder, Northwest High School in Germantown held a moment of silence for Najjar and Ziberoy before the graduation ceremony. The diplomas the two would have received at the ceremony were delivered to their respective families.