Raleigh, N.C. — A candlelight vigil held Thursday night across the street from City Hall aimed to raise awareness and activism against violence.
The names of each of the city’s 35 homicide victims last year were read aloud. One of those names was 14-year-old Damien Dunn, who died June 14 after being shot at a home in the Walnut Terrace community.
Damien belonged to the Helping Hand Mission Marching Band, a youth-driven band for boys and girls ages 7 to 17. The band has lost two members to gun violence in less than a year.
“The kids have really had to deal with it. They’ve had their crying spells. They’ve really taken it hard,” said Sylvia Wiggins, of Helping Hand Mission.
Andre Smith, who lost his son Daniel Smith to violence in December 2007, attended Thursday’s vigil and lit a candle in honor of his son. He told others that he was able to forgive the man who killed his son.
“It didn’t take away the pain. I lost my son,” Smith said. “Forgiveness is being able to let go of the pain, let go of the anger, let go of the need for revenge.”
Daniel Smith, 21, was stabbed to death at West Side Stories, 200 S. West St. in Raleigh, following an argument with Wallace Reynold Bass Jr., police said.
Raleigh’s 35 murders last year were 20 more than 2007’s total and the highest homicide total the city has had in 30 years.
Since 21 of last year’s homicides occurred in the southeast Raleigh police district, officers have stepped up patrols there and started a community police initiative. Officers patrol neighborhoods on foot and on bicycles.