SILVER SPRING — Eleven-year-old Mina Kim had completed less than two weeks of the sixth grade.
She liked to play video games with her friend Nardos Tsegaye, also age 11, and she knew mathematics well.
“I like going to middle school. The only thing is the time you have to wake up [in the morning],” Nardos said Sept. 17.
As for Mina, “She likes it, but I don’t know if she loves it or not,” Nardos said.
Mina died at a hospital four days later.
Mina’s father, Yong Mun Kim, 57, had shot her mother, Sang Yeon Kim, 48; her brother, Andy Kim, 10; her unnamed half-sister, age 22; and Mina herself. He then shot himself in their Coleville home, Montgomery County, police said.
Montgomery County Police spokesperson Officer Rick Goodale said police continue to investigate the crime, and they have not determined a motive.
Nardos knew Mina from when they were in the same fourth- and fifth-grade classes at Westover Elementary School. They had also ridden the bus together.
The girls sometimes visited each other’s houses and played a multi-player online game called Roblox. Though she had met Mina’s parents. Nardos didn’t know them as well as she knew Mina.
Nardos said she enjoys math, and she and Mina were in the same math class at Argyle Middle School.
Argyle Principal James Allrich sent a letter to parents and guardians about Mina’s death Friday.
“The Argyle community is heartbroken by this tragic news,” Allrich wrote. “For those of our students who knew Mina, we ask that you remember her gentle, joyful, and kind nature. For those of you who did not know her, we ask that you understand our sadness and join us in keeping Mina’s family and friends in our thoughts during this difficult time.”
Allrich said counselors, psychologists and pupil personnel workers would be available for the week of Sept. 24 to support students and staff.
“It is very difficult to face the loss of a young person,” Allrich wrote.
Parents and guardians at Westover Elementary received a somber letter with similar news on Sept. 17.
“It is with deep sorrow that I inform you that Andy Kim, a fourth-grade student at our school, has died,” Principal Audra Wilson wrote. “The Westover Community is heartbroken by this tragic news. For those of our students and families who knew Andy, we ask that you remember his creativity and gentle spirit.”
She asked students and families who did not know Andy to keep his family and friends in their thoughts.
Wilson wrote that she and a counselor would meet with fourth and fifth graders that day. Counselors, psychologists and pupil personnel workers were to be available for the week of Sept. 18. She, too, said, “It is very difficult to face the loss of a young person.”
Wilson and Allrich also sent information to parents and guardians about how to talk with their children about the death of a classmate.
Amit, who did not want to give his last name, said he was acquainted with the Kim family from when his daughter and the Kim children would wait at the same school bus stop.
He said he did not see Andy on the first day of school waiting for the bus in the neighborhood this year.
However, he knew the Kims to be a nice family.
“Sometimes we would take a walk and see his [Andy’s] dad working in the garden or something.”
Amit’s daughter Anannya, a 12-year-old in seventh grade at Argyle, said she knew Mina from the bus stop, but not well.
“Mina was really quiet, and she didn’t really talk much,” Anannya said.
She shared a memory of Mina from when they both attended Westover.
“I know she was good at math,” Anannya said.
Anannya said Westover had a school-wide activity involving mathematics called Math Attack.
“I was in fifth [grade]; she was in third or fourth,” said Anannya.
Mina was one of the few students in the school who successfully completed the game that day.
“Even I didn’t get it,” Anannya said of Math Attack.
A neighbor named John, who did not want to give his last name, said his family and the Kim family got along well. Yong Kim had visited John’s family’s house for parties.
John, who is in his 30s, said Yong Kim enjoyed fishing.
“He [Yong Kim] goes fishing at Ocean City [Maryland] every year,” and would take John’s family some fish from his trip, John said.
Yong Kim was a mechanic and had repaired John’s car when it had a problem.
“They’re a happy family with a lot of kids,” John said.
He said the Kims had another daughter, who had moved out two or three years ago after a disagreement with Yong Kim.
John said his mother knew Sang Kim, who would sometimes go to John’s home to visit.
Police spokesperson Goodale said police are still trying to figure out what happened that morning and what led to the shooting. The lone survivor, the 22-year-old daughter of Sang Kim from a previous relationship had been the one who called police.
Police responded to the home on the 100 block of Amberleigh Drive at 12:06 a.m. Sept. 17 after Sang Kim’s daughter, age 22, called to report the shooting. Sang Kim and Yong Kim were dead in the home, police said. Personnel from Montgomery County Fire and Rescue transported Mina and Andy Kim and the 22-year-old stepdaughter to nearby hospitals.