Durham city leaders seek solutions after bloody, violent 24 hours
Posted October 30, 2019 3:34 p.m. EDT
Updated October 31, 2019 12:29 a.m. EDT
Durham, N.C. — City leaders spoke out Wednesday about a spate of violence in Durham that left at least two people dead and several others injured in a series of shootings within a roughly 24-hour time frame.
The mayor and City Council members spoke to reporters outside Durham City Hall as police were asking for the public's help to identify the people who gunned down 17-year-old Zaeveon Tucker, who was killed outside the Shepherds House United Methodist Church during a drive-by shooting Tuesday afternoon.
Police said Tucker had just walked across Driver Street when someone inside a passing vehicle fired shots at him, striking him in the back. He died at the scene, police said.
Investigators released photos of a Dodge Ram and a Ford F-150, which were believed to have been in the area when the shooting occurred. The occupants are not considered suspects in the case, and police said they may have seen something that can aid in the investigation.
"None of us, none of us, should tolerate any shootings in Durham," Mayor Steve Schewel said.
"It's concerning because I have children growing up. I want my children to have an understanding that life is worth living," Durham resident Dennis Garrett said.
Police Chief C.J. Davis said the shootings could be gang-related.
"Based on our preliminary investigative efforts, we believe some of the recent shootings are gang-related, a result of continued retaliation between groups," Davis said in a statement. There is no evidence that suggest the disputes are turf-related but have occurred in various districts throughout the city.
"We want to assure the community that our top priority is to investigate and solve the recent shooting crimes in an effort to prevent further gun violence, and loss of life," she continued. "Our gang investigators and Intelligence Unit are carefully analyzing these cases and are gathering and sharing information with DPD officers."
Davis said the department plans to set up an "enhanced Gang Task Force," which will mean adding more "personnel to meet the demand for greater intervention in addressing violent gang offenders."
But city leaders are not united on how to prevent and solve shootings in Durham.
In June, the City Council denied Davis' request for extra officers. That vote has raised concern for many residents who say more police officers on the streets would help address the crime problem.
Council members Charlie Reece and Javiera Caballero and Mayor Pro Tem Jillian Johnson told WRAL News on Wednesday they stand by their votes not to fund the officer positions.
"We must find prevention, intervention and re-entry strategies to stop crime before it starts," Johnson said. "We must help everyone in our community learn how to solve their conflicts without violence."
Councilwoman DeDreana Freeman, who voted in favor of the additional positions, told WRAL that she feels her colleagues made a mistake.
“It’s not in relation to the actual shootings that occurred but on the investigation side and recognizing it’s the officers who have to clean up this mess when shootings occur,” Freeman said.
"The city is listening. We hear that something needs to be done, and it is just not about the data," she added.
Schewel was also among those who voted to fund the positions, but he said more officers is not the single answer.
"If we had 18 more police officers, if we had nine more police officers, there was not going to be a police officer on the corner of Driver Street when that shooting occurred," he said, referencing the gunfire that claimed Tucker's life.
The mayor said the city is working on a long-term plan to tackle the root causes of crime by concentrating on mental health and drug addiction programs and bringing affordable housing and more jobs to the city.
When asked about what the city is doing right now, he said municipal leaders are supporting the police chief, whom he praised for her work.
Schewel acknowledged that the homicide rate is up this year over last year, but he said overall crime in Durham, over the long term, is trending down.
“Our city is safer and safer all the time,” he said.
The recent incidents that have made news include:
- Police say a drive-by shooter killed Kerry Graham Jr., 24, late Monday night on South Dillard Street. Two other people were also shot but survived. Graham and the three victims were waiting at a bus stop when a dark-colored car drove by and someone inside the vehicle started shooting. Graham's uncle, Christopher Jones, had been planning an anti-gun violence rally for three months, and it was scheduled to be held this weekend. “My nephew was a very good young man," Jones said. "He was just sitting there with two other young ladies and was just shot in cold blood.”
Tuesday evening, police were called to intersection of West Club Boulevard and Watts Street before 5:30 p.m. on a report of gunfire. When officers arrived, they found an adult male who had been shot. He was transported to the hospital for treatment of injuries that do not appear to be life-threatening. A short time later, a man and a woman arrived at Duke Regional Hospital. The man suffered a gunshot wound and the woman suffered injuries from flying debris. Their injuries did not appear to be life-threatening. Witnesses told police that multiple shots were fired from at least one vehicle and investigators found numerous shell casings in the area.
WRAL anchor/reporter Julian Grace contributed to this report.