Local News

"We Are Going to Take Our Neighborhood Back"

Posted June 2, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— Under gray skies, the town of Rocky Mount remembered a slain four-year-old girl on Monday. They also vowed to stop the violence in their neighboorhoods.

Brittany Johnson was killed Saturday night as she slept in her room. Police say that seven men fired at least nine rounds into the Rex Street home. One of the stray bullets hit Brittany. She died a short time later.

Five men are behind bars, all charged with first degree murder. Three of the suspects are brothers. Police say that they may make more arrests in the case.

There were five other children in the house when Brittany was killed. Rocky Mount Police Lieutenant Wayne Sears says that this tragedy could have been much worse.

Police tell WRAL-TV5 News that Brittany's mother may not know that her child is dead. The woman is a fugitive from the law, and police want her in connection with a number of crimes, including a hit-and-run case. Neighbors say that they have not seen the woman in months, and they have no idea where she is.

Brittany's murder is the latest in a long line of killings on Rex Street. Another four-year-old was killed by gunfire just down the street from Brittany's house a few weeks ago.

However, statistics show that crime is way down in that part of town. Federal funding in 1995 allowed police to beef up patrols in the community. The extra police, coupled with "Eagle Watch," an anti-crime program created by residents, is attributed with cutting the neighborhood's murder rate in half after only two years.

Residents like Doris Thorne say that they appreciate the police department's help, but she realizes that the community must make it's own contribution to fighting crime. She wants to take her neighborhood back.

Thorne and others hope that they can reclaim their streets -- so Rocky Mount will never again see an innocent child struck down in their sleep.