2 honor students shot to death on eve of HS graduation in Montgomery Co.

18-year-old Artem S. Ziberov (left) and 17-year-old Shadi Adi Najjar (right) were killed in a shooting Monday night in Montgomery County. (Photos, courtesy of the families)

Adi Najjar stood outside his Germantown home and tried to keep his composure Tuesday.

But talking about his son Shadi Najjar, found shot to death Monday night, was almost too much to bear.

“It’s so hard, so difficult waiting for answers,” Najjar said. “I need to know what's happened. Why, why would somebody kill my boy, my beautiful boy?”

Shadi, just 17, and his 18-year-old friend Artem Ziberov were in a happy mood Monday.

Graduation ceremonies were to take place the next day at DAR Constitution Hall in the District.

The boys had told their parents they were going out that night, trying to sell a few extra graduation tickets.

“He said ‘Dad, I'm leaving with Artem to go somewhere’,” Najjar recalled. “I say fine, where are you going? ‘We are going to try to sell this ticket’.”

The two teens took off in Shadi’s Honda, a gift from his father.

It was the last time Najjar saw his son alive.

Later that night, residents in the Gallery Court neighborhood of Montgomery Village, heard a rat-tat-tat-tat sound.

“It sounded like a hammer on metal,” David Cline remembers. “It didn’t make any sense. Nobody should be doing that at 10:30.”

Along the same block, Gordon Gipe’s home security system recorded audio of the staccato sound.

“I heard fairly loud what I thought initially were firecrackers,” he says.

Gipe went to bed, thinking nothing was seriously amiss.

He didn’t realize until the next day, that he had recorded a series of gunshots.

The sound of at least ten to twelve rounds, fired in rapid succession, in two bursts.

“I was just kind of hoping that it was just shots against a vehicle versus a person,” Gipe says quietly.

But arriving officers, responding to a 911 call from a neighbor, made a terrible discovery. Both teens had been shot to death.

“It appears they were seated in the vehicle and that they were shot while they were in the vehicle,” said Captain Paul Starks, a Montgomery County Police spokesperson.

Investigators say they have no idea what the teens were doing in Gallery Court.

Neighbors say they had never seen them, or the Honda, ever before.

“To find out two individuals lost their lives ... somebody’s relative, somebody’s brother, sister, whoever it may be, that’s the disheartening piece of it," said Ron Hudson, who lives nearby.

Both teens were honor students at Northwest High.

Shadi was preparing to enroll in classes at Montgomery College to study computer science or medicine.

Artem was an honor roll Eagle Scout, heading to the University of Maryland, to study International Business.

Artem’s stepfather and mother politely declined to be interviewed, but his mother called her son "a great young man, with a great future."

Police say at this point they have no suspects or description of a car.

Authorities continue looking for a motive and evidence.

Tuesday evening, detectives were back at the scene, after the discovery of several shell casings.

Investigators also plan on reviewing Gipe’s audio recording.

Police are offering a $10,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest.

But a day that should have been a milestone, a day of pride, has turned into a time of sadness and mourning.

“As a father, I need to know what happened to my son,” Adi Najjar says. “Why would somebody shoot him? What did he do wrong? Why?

Northwest High School Principal Jimmy D’Andrea released the following statement Tuesday:

"Dear Northwest Families,
It is with deep sadness that I inform you of the deaths of Shadi Najjar and Artem Ziberov. Both students were scheduled to graduate today. For those of you who knew Artem and Shadi, we ask that you remember and celebrate them. They were both excellent students who had a positive impact on those around them, and they will be greatly missed.
There will be a support team of counselors at DAR Constitution Hall today during our graduation ceremony and at school tomorrow. Students can leave class to come to the counseling office at any point tomorrow, and in the coming days, if they feel the need.
Your student may have questions and worries about this loss. I have attached some suggestions that may prove helpful to you in conversations with your student.
I know you join me in extending our heartfelt sympathy to the family and friends of Artem and Shadi. While the school is closed today for graduation, please do not hesitate to contact us later this week at 301-601-4660 if you have any questions."
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