At around noon Tuesday, Oct. 16, Cecile (‘Cece’) Jimenez spoke on the phone with her husband Fernando for about twenty minutes. “Everything was good, he was looking forward to seeing me,” she said.
Fernando was due back in Brussels Oct. 31, where Cece was working for the State Department. Halloween would have been their 26th wedding anniversary, and they were planning to celebrate when he arrived.
“Instead, I came back here and buried him,” Cece said.
‘So Many Mysteries’
About an hour after Fernando and Cece spoke, Fernando was sitting in the driver’s seat of a late-model red Cadillac borrowed from a friend and parked outside the Jimenez’s home on the 1300 block of D Street NE, possibly looking at his phone. Security footage from a nearby house shows a champagne-colored SUV pull up beside him. An occupant from inside the SUV then fired 7 bullets into the borrowed car. The SUV raced away.
Jimenez, age 59, died after being transported to a local hospital. Police have called the shooting ‘bizarre’, and say they don’t have much more to go on. Neighbors, reeling from the loss of a man who they say was at the center of so many gatherings, say they want to understand why this happened.
“We talk amongst ourselves, but none of us can come up with anything that really makes sense,” said Jimenez’s friend and neighbor Michael Herman. “It’s just a mystery.”
Another neighbor, Edmund Crawley, said he was shocked when he learned, saying Jimenez was one of the friendliest people he knew. “This is someone so unlikely to be involved in anything that would get him shot.”
‘Cute As A Button’
Ezequiel Fernando Jacinto Jimenez Pinto was born in Panama City, Panama on April 14, 1959, but grew up in Ecuador. He came to the United States to go to school.
“His is kind of the classic immigrant story,” said Cece. “He worked hard to stay here.”
Fernando attended the University of New Mexico, earning a bachelor’s degree in Respiratory Therapy. While working at Albuquerque Hospital he met and fell in love with Cece, marrying her in 1992.
“He is cute as a button,” said Cece, still speaking of her husband in the present tense. “He’s as cute now as he was the day I met him.”
The two moved to DC in 2000 so Cece could attend graduate school. They had planned to return to Albuquerque after she finished her degree, but fell in love with the District and the neighborhood in Capitol Hill where they had been living.
“Fernando totally picked the house,” she said. “He knew all the old ladies in the street, and their kids. He loved the street.”
The house on D Street did some choosing for them as well. When State Department magazines began arriving at the address, Fernando and Cece noted positions in a variety of medical fields. Soon after, she joined the service as a Foreign Service Health Provider. Some years later, Fernando began accompanying her on her tours, working in various capacities for the State Department.
Center of Networks
Despite these absences from the District, Fernando kept folks in the neighborhood together. Neighbors say that Jimenez was at the center of multiple networks of friends, drawing them together for dinner, bike rides or informal glasses of wine.
“People were telling me, oh when you guys are out of town, we don’t see each other for months sometimes –and then Fernando comes back,” Cece said.
Michael Herman has lived on the street since 1987. He knew Fernando as a neighbor, but their friendship really grew after they ran into one another in the cafeteria at Sibley Hospital, where Herman worked in IT and Jimenez was a respiratory therapist. They grew close over the next 18 years. “It was very easy to grow close to them,” said Herman. “He was very outgoing and friendly with everybody, the kind of person who would get people together.”
“There was nothing he would not do for a friend,” said Joyce Vala, who met Fernando through Cece. “To me, he was ‘my brother from another mother’. I have many stories of his kindness and love.”
Neighbor Edmund Crawley has lived next door to Fernando and Cece for the past three years, and he said Fernando was very prominent in the neighborhood, always with a smile on his face.
“He was just kind of the friendliest guy you ever met,” he said.
Twenty months ago, Crawley and his wife welcomed a daughter, and Fernando marked the moment in a traditional manner.
“He invited me around to his porch and we smoked cigars together,” remembers Crawley.
‘Just Not That Guy’
In recent years, Fernando joined Cece on her postings overseas. He did not have such a position during her most recent posting in Brussels, but commuted back and forth, returning home every six months to work at Sibley in order to maintain his licensing and position.
“They loved him at Sibley,” said Herman. “Whenever he was back, they were like, ‘when can you start’?”
It was during one of those trips home that Jimenez was shot. The neighbors say that Jimenez’s death has drawn them closer together, even as they deal with fear and uncertainty.
“It seems like it was a really targeted attack,” said Crawley, “but there’s no indication of why he should have been targeted at all. It’s a real mystery.”
Herman said that having no explanation makes it feel even more dangerous. “To have that happen on the street when anyone could really have been out there, and then not even to know why,” he said.
“There’s just lots of mysteries.”
‘Could Have Been Any One of Us’
Neighbors say that the incident has shaken their faith that they know what their neighborhood is like.
“It always felt like a very safe neighborhood,” said Crawley. “It really makes you more aware.”
“I think about how many times I visited them and sat in my car briefly to set up my GPS or make a call to say I was on my way home,” said Vala. “It could have been any one of us.”
Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) First District Commander Morgan Kane did not rule out the possibility of mistaken identity. Kane said that although it was clear that the bullets went where the shooter intended them to go, “I don’t know if he was the intended target. I can’t say that.”
Detectives are using video from multiple areas to piece together the travel path of the vehicle involved. However, she noted that the department needs more information to bring the case to closure, saying that any piece of information could be useful, no matter how small.
Police are looking for a beige-colored Toyota Highlander seen in the vicinity of the 1300 block of D Street NE around 1 p.m. Monday, Oct. 16.
Cece Jimenez said that she believes MPD detectives have done a good job but they just don’t have enough to work with. She is returning to Brussels to finish the 20 months left in her tour, although she says she can’t imagine it will be any fun without Fernando.
She loves the neighborhood and had always planned to retire there, but now she feels less certain.
“I just don’t know if I feel safe,” she said.
She wants resolution, so that she can heal and move on.
“I’m not going to lose my husband as well as my house, my neighbors and my friends,” she said.
If you have information on this case, call MPD at (202) 727-9099. You can also text information, including photos and video, to the Department’s Text Tip Line at 50411.