RICHMOND -- The four years since her son's death have not eased Rosalynn McFadden's pain.

"Devin's death didn't sink in for months," McFadden said. "Even when I saw him in the casket, I didn't cry. Now, I cry every day. I realized that back then, I was just in shock for a long time."

Devin Johnson was 18 and on his way home from work the night of March 31, 2009. He was also well on his way in life, taking classes at Diablo Valley College and aspiring to a career in law enforcement.

He died after being shot with a large-caliber weapon while driving his 1991 Acura on an isolated stretch of Atlas Road.

Johnson was one of 45 homicides in Richmond in 2009, most of which have not been solved.

Richmond has added hundreds of unsolved homicides to its cold case files over the years. But to Johnson's family and police detectives, the killing on Atlas Road is particularly vexing.

"Johnson was that rare victim who had no prior history being involved in anything that may put him at risk," Detective Nicole Abetkov said. "He just went to work, had a solid family. There was nothing negative."

In the months after his 2008 graduation from Pinole Valley High School, Johnson was always on task.

He lived with family in an apartment complex near Hilltop mall. He was meticulous about cleaning his room, his mother said, and was always hunting for extra hours at his job as a security guard at the UPS facility on Atlas Road.

The regimentation may have come from his father, a major in the U.S. Army. Big brother Dwaine McFadden helped look after Johnson when their father was overseas.

What Johnson really loved was college, his mom said.

"He was always talking about the future, about how he wanted to be a police officer and a youth counselor so he could help people," Rosalynn McFadden said. "We were all so proud."

On the evening of March 31, 2009, Johnson was on his way home from work when bullets fired from another car near an Arco gas station on Atlas Road pierced Johnson's red 1991 Acura Legend.

"It was just one bullet," McFadden said, letting the statement linger. "One bullet. It passed through his lower back and out his stomach and severed an artery, the doctors said."

Johnson was pronounced dead at the scene.

"There was, like, 100 people out there when I got to the scene," McFadden said. "I saw his car. I could even see the color and the emblem of his uniform, but I couldn't believe that was my boy inside."

Police found no witnesses to the shooting. A few 40-caliber shell casings were recovered. After he was shot, Johnson's car crashed into some trees near the UPS gate. Hundreds attended Johnson's funeral at Hilltop Community Church.

Richmond police had suspects but not enough to file charges.

"In any homicide case, witnesses are our bread and butter," Abetkov said. "Without them, it's really hard to make a case stick. In this case, when the victim had no (gang) ties and was just driving in the middle of nowhere on a dark highway, we never had much to work with."

While homicides in Richmond have trended down for years, 2009 was a bloody aberration. The 45 homicides that year were almost as many as the next two years combined. Police believe most of the shootings were carried out by a few prolific shooters they say were on sprees in 2009, part of a neighborhood war between rival gangs.

"If we're going to solve this case, we're going to need some new evidence to surface," Abetkov said. "We need someone to step forward."

A $10,000 reward is offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Devin Johnson's killer. Anyone with information is asked to call 510-232-TIPS (8477).

Contact Robert Rogers at 510-262-2726 and follow him at Twitter.com/roberthrogers.