Local News

Durham leaders outraged after three children wounded in two shootings

Posted July 14, 2020 11:58 p.m. EDT
Updated July 15, 2020 8:28 p.m. EDT

— Three children were wounded in two overnight shootings in Durham, enraging city officials and police.

A 3-year-old and an 8-year-old were among eight people hurt in a drive-by shooting in the 200 block of South Benjamine Street at about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday.

A 12-year-old boy was shot at about 2:30 a.m. Wednesday in an apartment complex at 3020 E. Weaver St., off Cornwallis Road.

Calling it "a terrible night, a tragic night," Mayor Steve Schewel said he was outraged by the circumstances of the two shootings.

On Benjamine Street, a family was gathered to mark the birthday of the late son of the woman who lived in the home. Police Chief C.J. Davis said a black car, possibly a Chevrolet Impala, drove past, and someone inside sprayed the area with gunfire as a crowd of people was gathered in the front yard.

"People who would shoot into a party or a gathering of any type, people who are bringing gun violence and terrorizing our community," Schewel said, "this is a relatively small number of people, but they are visiting violence on our community that is unacceptable."

One nearby resident, who wanted to be identified only as "James," said he heard about 20 gunshots.

"There was a lot of mayhem and screaming and obvious trauma," he said.

"I’m appalled. This is like a Colombian cartel. Shooting into cake- and ice cream-eating kids having a party? On their little plastic scooter toys in the front yard?" he added. "These kids didn’t do anything to anybody."

Six adults also were wounded, and police said one of them and one of the children were in critical condition Wednesday afternoon.

Davis said the 12-year-old was hit in the head by a bullet that went into a second-floor apartment as two groups of people exchanged gunfire on Weaver Street. The boy was hospitalized in critical condition Wednesday, and an adult also was wounded in the shooting.

"So we’re shooting kids in the head now?" nearby resident Kemyana Redwood said. "This is crazy. I have a child that doesn’t live with me because of the shootings that happen out here."

Davis said it's unclear if the two shootings are linked, but they both have the characteristics of gang-related violence.

"There is no excuse nor justification for such horrible acts against these members of our community," she said, calling on the community to help solve the two crimes and take a stand against continued gun violence in Durham.

"The safety and well-being of our children and neighbors are all of our responsibility," she said. "We must say, 'No more. Enough is enough. This must end.'"

Gang members need to call a truce to their gun battles, Davis added.

"Think of the innocent victims impacted by your actions," she said. "There are children in our community whose lives will never be the same because of the actions of those who don't care enough to put their differences aside and their guns down."

The police department added six investigators to its anti-gang unit this year, and Davis said the department "will continue to put all of the resources we have" toward fighting gang violence.

"It’s very stupid on both sides, whether it’s gang-related or not," said Gregory Brockington, who lives near the site of the Weaver Street shooting.

"All crime just needs to stop. Just please just stop," agreed neighbor Barbara Lyons. "Our city officials need to get on top of this, and the chief of police."

City Councilman Mark-Anthony Middleton said he wants a special council meeting to discuss "a comprehensive and unified plan" to deal with gun violence in Durham.

Middleton and Councilwoman DeDreanna Freeman said they were heartbroken by news of the shootings.

"I think a lot of us feel a sense of great anger and disgust and resignation to do something – something in the immediate sense, not just strategically but tactically," Middleton said. "The ultimate measure of our success as a city has to be how we keep the most vulnerable amongst us safe."

"I’ve already cried the tears, and I don’t know what else we can do, but we have to do something," said Freeman, who lives near Benjamine Street. "This is a failure of our community to take care of the children who are now adults and the children who are now teenagers. If we don’t do something to stem this culture of violence, we’re going to continue to see the same outcomes, and I can’t manage with that."

Davis recalled a similar call to action almost a year ago following the shooting death of 9-year-old Z'yon Person, who was on his way to get ice cream with his aunt and other relatives when he was killed.

"This is getting old," the chief said, "not just as a police chief, but as a community member [and] a mother, to see the reckless disregard for life in our community. ... The only thing we can do is to try to continue to work together."

WRAL reporters Kacey Cunningham and Brett Knese contributed to this report.

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