Local News

Despite clarion call, youth violence continues in Fayetteville

Posted September 29, 2014 10:31 p.m. EDT
Updated September 29, 2014 10:38 p.m. EDT

— In July, city and county leaders called for an end to youth violence in Fayetteville, but violent incidents involving youth have continued in the city, including the shooting death of a 16-year-old Saturday night.

Extra Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office deputies were at Seventy-First High School on Monday – at the request of school officials – less than two days after Joseph Braxton III was shot and killed outside a Sweet 16 party.

Braxton was one of about 20 students from the school invited to the party, located inside a Randleman Street home. At about 10:30 p.m., shots were fired after Braxton was involved in an altercation across the street from the residence.

Angelique Saxton, who threw the party for her daughter, ran to Braxton as he took his last breaths.

“I want his mom to know that he was with some people,” she said Sunday. "And we were praying for him, we were praying for him."

Braxton was pronounced dead at the scene.

His death occurred outside a party where precautions were taken to avoid unwanted visitors. Saxton said she stationed two adults at each door and handed out glo-bracelets to identify those who were supposed to be there.

On Monday, a vigil was held at the spot where he was killed, marked by a framed picture, flowers, cards, teddy bears and a hand-written note.

Crime, youth a common combination

In July, Fayetteville Police Chief Harold Medlock spoke about the city’s youth violence problem during a rally outside the Cumberland County Courthouse. City and county leaders called for an end to the problem during the event, which came after the shooting death of a 19-year-old who spoke out against violence.

Between January 2013 and June 2014, out of the city’s 34 homicides, half of those charged were between the ages of 14 and 26, as noted in the Fayetteville Observer’s Seeking Safety series.

But violent acts involving youth have not stopped, including:

Addressing the problem will take additional resources, said Cumberland County Commissioner Charles Evans, who attended Monday's vigil.

“You can’t arrest your way out of crime. If that was the case we would have detention centers all over Cumberland County," he said. "What we need to do is work on tangible solutions for our young people. Recreation activities, all sorts of activities that would encourage our young people to participate.”

Fayetteville leaders hope a film will help teenagers make better decisions and not resort violence.

“Decision Points” details the story of a young man who makes a series of bad choices with devastating consequences. The movie also highlights the problems cell phones and social media can create when teenagers spread the word about an upcoming party – something public officials have cited as a reason why gatherings get out of hand.

The movie will be shown to seventh and ninth graders in Cumberland County Schools.

'Whoever did this, they have no morals'

Under dark clouds, more than 20 people attended the vigil for Braxton, the Seventy-First High School student.

The rain stopped, but the tears flowed.

Candles were lit. Some could barely hold themselves up.

"My son made my day," said Tabatha Brown, Braxton's mother. "He was my heart. And now it's like my heart is gone. How can I live without a heart?"

Brown and others at the vigil believe Braxton's death was a result of a dispute at school, a theory Fayetteville police would not confirm or deny.

No arrests were made in Braxton’s killing as of Monday evening. Investigators said they are talking to witnesses and are looking for three subjects in a dark-colored SUV.

Meanwhile, family and friends continue to cope.

"He's a baby. He didn't even complete high school," Brown said. "No children, no wife, no anything. Whoever did this, they have no morals. No compassion. No anything."

The group ended the vigil by playing music and dancing – just the way Braxton would've wanted it, they said.