Local News

Police Ask Community's Help in Solving Murder of 14-Year-Old

Posted March 26, 2007 9:02 a.m. EDT
Updated March 27, 2007 1:07 a.m. EDT

— Durham police and elected officials appealed to the community Monday to come forward with information to help them catch the persons who shot and killed a 14-year-old girl and wounded a 16-year-old girl Sunday night and wounded a 14-year-old boy Friday night.

“We certainly need the help of the community in solving these crimes," Police Chief Steven W. Chalmers told a news conference. Mayor William V. Bell and city council members joined Chalmers to emphasize the need for the community to support police.

Tavisa Cartnail, 14, of Fidelity Drive, who was in the backseat of an SUV, was killed Sunday night when a bullet hit her while she was in the back seat of an SUV traveling north on Driver Street near Taylor Street, Chalmers said. He said a 16-year-old girl also in the car was hit in the head.

The driver headed for Fidelity Street and police were called from there, the chief said. Cartnail was pronounced dead at the scene. The shooting happened about 11:15 p.m., Chalmers said.

Chalmers did not release the 16-year-old's name because of her age, but said she was being treated at Duke University Hospital and her injuries were not life-threatening.

Friday night at 6:45 p.m., he said, a 14-year-old boy was with his mother at a convenience store at Bacon and Lawson streets when he was hit by a bullet while they were getting back into their car after purchasing soda and ice. His wounds also were not believed to be life threatening.

Chalmers said at least 15 people were in the store parking lot when the shooting happened, but all told police they had not seen it. A silver vehicle was seen leaving the scene about that time, Chalmers said, but investigators do not know if was involved.

The two incidents do not seem to be related, the chief told reporters.

Chalmers called the shootings "two totally senseless and unprovoked acts of violence against innocent juveniles."

"Today, a lot of youth are getting killed unnecessarily just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time," said Lynette Leonard, who heard the Friday night shots. "There's no age limit on death anymore, and it seems like they're getting younger and younger by the day."

Violence has to be addressed by everyone, Bell said.

"This has to be a community problem in terms of finding a solution," the mayor told reporters.

 “The one thing we do not want to do is spread fear throughout the community,” Chalmers said, but people need to be aware of what is happening in their neighborhoods and and to report anything suspicious.

“This has to be a community problem in terms of finding a solution," the mayor said. He also said police are making a special effort to solve the shootings because children became targets.

"“It is not business as usual and we want the public to know that,” Bell said. "We won't rest until we find who these people are."

“We’re not here to say this is a Durham-unique problem," Chalmers said in echoing Bell's comments. "As a society, we have a violence problem.”

“We have innocent children that are being indiscriminately targeted for no apparent reason," the chief said.

Police received several calls about a man firing a gun in the intersection at Driver and Taylor, Chalmers said, but police who arrived there within 60 seconds could find no one. In addition to the two girls who were shot, a bullet struck an occupied house in the area, he said.

“I’m very hopeful. I’m very positive. If the information is there, we will be receiving it,” Chalmers said.

“We’re seeing a lot of support and lot of people who care about the community,” Chalmers said.

If you have any information about this case, you are asked to contact Durham police at 919-560-4440 or CrimeStoppers at 919-683-1200.