Funeral Director, Known to Support Black Victims of Violence, Kills 10-Year-Old's Pallbearer at Cemetery: Cops
"We do quite a bit of homicides ... primarily, we service the Black community," Wilson Chavis, also known as Wes Chavis III, told Inside Edition Digital in a 2022 interview. Chavis is accused of killing a pallbearer at a 10-year-old child's funeral.
The funeral home director facing murder charges after allegedly opening fire at the burial of 10-year-old Arianna Davis had once been touted as a pillar of Washington D.C.’s Black community.
Compassion and Serenity Funeral Home's co-owner Wilson Chavis, also known as Wes Chavis III, was arrested last Tuesday after fatally shooting a pallbearer meant to carry Arianna’s coffin.
“I’m so traumatized that this happened at my daughter’s burial site,” Arianna’s mom Antoinette Belk mom told NBC Washington. “I didn’t even get to lay her down, even to put her in the ground, and another incident happened. This is so traumatizing to me, my children, my whole family."
Chavis once prided himself on supporting the Black community in times of tragedy in Maryland’s Prince George County, a suburb neighboring Washington D.C. “Primarily, we service the Black community,” he told Inside Edition Digital in a 2022 interview. “We do quite a bit of homicides because of the area we’re in, close to D.C., where the homicide rate is up.”
Prince George County, made up of nearly 65% Black Americans, has been plagued by violent crime since the 1980s, with a peak in homicides in 2005 and another uptick in violent crime in 2020, which many attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He made a name for himself and his funeral home for performing embalming and funeral services in high-profile homicides like Arianna’s.
“I would consider myself one of the best embalmers on the East Coast,” Chavis told Inside Edition Digital in 2022. “I take pride in what I do and treat every client as if they were my own loved ones.”
He performed the embalming and funeral services for 8-year-old PJ Evans, who, like Arianna, was fatally shot in a drive-by shooting. The little boy had been enjoying a taco Tuesday-themed lunch with his cousins when a bullet entered his aunt's house through a window and killed him immediately.
"I got into this business thinking I was going to bury elderly people in my community," Chavis said. "I didn't realize I would burying so many young people."
Chavis spoke to Inside Edition Digital about PJ's untimely death and homicide rates in Prince George County.
“We’ve serviced [PJ's] family before,” he said at the time. “It’s so hard, you don’t know what to say to people when they keep coming back to you. We have so many families that have come to us three or four times in one year.”
Chavis had been hired as the funeral director for Arianna’s burial last Tuesday. Arianna was killed last month by a stray bullet that struck her while she was asleep in her family’s car, federal authorities said in a statement. She and her family had been on their way home from a Mother’s Day event, and Arianna died of her injuries three days later, police said.
Funeral attendees said an argument broke out between Chavis and two people associated with another funeral service in the area at the Washington National Cemetery, where Arianna’s services were scheduled, according to a statement of probable cause.
One of the people allegedly involved in the argument was the preacher presiding over the services, according to court documents. The preacher was also a close friend of the Davis family and the uncle of the pallbearer who was killed, according to NBC Washington.
Witnesses allegedly heard Chavis say to the preacher, “I’m here for all you b**** a** n****s,” and, “this ain’t your f****** funeral home,” court documents stated. Belk alleged Chavis even yelled “I own this body” at one point and spat on the preacher, NBC Washington reported.
As funeral attendees began intervening, asking for peace during the girl’s burial, Chavis reportedly tripped on the concrete vault lid and fell next to the grave, while simultaneously drawing a pistol from his waistband and firing a shot, documents stated.
The bullet struck and killed 30-year-old Ronald Steven Banks, authorities said. He was meant to be a pallbearer for Arianna’s coffin, according to police.
"It's trauma after trauma," Belk, Arianna's mother, told NBC Washington.
Chavis fired another shot as he stood, and a bullet grazed an attendee who was hospitalized for minor injuries, police said. His attorney says he acted in self-defense .
Chavis is accused of fleeing the scene in his car. He was stopped by police a short time later, officials said.
He is now being held at the Prince George County Department of Corrections. Chavis was denied bail at his hearing last Friday. His attorney has not responded Inside Edition Digital's request for comment.
Anyone with more information relevant to the investigation into the death of Banks, the pallbearer, is asked to contact detectives at 301-516-2512.
Arianna’s killer is still at large and authorities are requesting the public’s assistance in solving her murder. They are offering up to $25,000 for information leading to an arrest.
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