Police said Villatoro was shot at around 12:40 p.m. at the 3000 block of Adams Street NE, in a neighborhood that has a mix of industrial and residential buildings and is lined by New York and South Dakota Avenues.
Dustin Sternbeck, a DC police spokesman, said Villatoro saw a man tampering with a truck and began arguing with him. Sternbeck said the man pulled a gun and Villatoro turned and ran away.
Sternbeck said Villatoro “tried to flee and was shot in the back”.
Villatoro died at the scene and police said the gunman drove away in a black Chevrolet Impala. As of Friday, there were no arrests. Police said it appears no property was stolen. It wasn’t immediately clear if the truck belonged to the landscaping company or another worker.
“He was a quiet person,” said the brother-in-law, 53-year-old Jose Villatoro, who shares a surname with his daughter-in-law but is not related by blood. “If someone teased him, he just left them alone. That’s the kind of person he was. Why did this happen to him?”
Villatoro was the district’s 151st homicide victim this year, down 2 percent from this time in 2021. His assassination also broke a 10-day respite from deadly crimes: As of Thursday, there had been no homicide in DC since 9/11 given more.
But the city continues to struggle with gun violence and killings, and has come through a year in which it surpassed 200 homicides for the first time since 2003. Violent crime, Jose Villatoro said, “is out of control”.
The Gateway neighborhood where Villatoro was shot has had no more murders this year, and police statistics show that assaults with dangerous weapons have fallen compared to last year. But these statistics also show that robberies have almost doubled.
Jose Villatoro, who lives in Prince George’s County, said his brother-in-law came to the United States in the late 1980s and worked with him quarrying rock at a building materials and quarrying company in Bethesda. He said Bacilio Villatoro recently abandoned that work for landscaping.
The brother-in-law said others at the site had told him the attack appeared to be an attempted robbery. He said Bacilio Villatoro kept about $100 to $150 in his pockets for transportation and other needs.
Jose Villatoro said his brother-in-law sent money to his wife and other relatives in El Salvador. He said Villatoro enjoyed hanging out with friends and watching sports, and although he was quiet and taciturn, he “liked being around people who had a conversation”.
Relatives in Maryland and El Salvador discuss funeral arrangements.
“He died at work,” said Jose Villatoro. “That’s the kind of guy he was.”
Teo Armus contributed to this report.