Local News

Stabbing raises questions about safety in Moore Square

Posted March 7, 2011 4:51 p.m. EST
Updated March 7, 2011 7:04 p.m. EST

— A fatal stabbing in Moore Square over the weekend put some visitors to the downtown Raleigh park on edge Monday.

Eric Lee Jackson, 52, was among a group of homeless people waiting in line for free coffee and biscuits Sunday morning when he was stabbed, police said. He died a few hours later at WakeMed.

Leonard Coleman, 62, who police say also is homeless, was charged with murder in the case. He was being held in the Wake County jail without bond.

"It was not a random act. Two men got in a confrontation, and unfortunately, it happened in Moore Square, which is not good for our city," said Capt. Kevin Craghead of the Raleigh Police Department.

The downtown park is surrounded by restaurants, Marbles Kids Museum and Moore Square Magnet Middle School. It's also a gathering place for homeless people seeking services from the Salvation Army across the street and the nearby Raleigh Rescue Mission.

"I wouldn't walk at nighttime down here, not by myself anyway," downtown visitor Jessica Wiggs said.

"It's awful what happened, but I don't feel like it's a daily concern," said GiGi Lee, who said she walks in Moore Square with her granddaughter nearly every day.

Jackson's death was only the second homicide downtown in three years, Craghead said.

Police often have extra officers on patrol in Moore square, especially when church or community groups hand out food, he said.

"We've had some problems policing it, but we've done an outstanding job," he said. "These same people have constitutional rights, and it's our job as a police department, it's our job as a government and it's our job as with community services to recognize that."

Raleigh is working on a planned redesign of Moore Square that officials say will make the park better for all visitors.

Dennis Bullock said he frequents Moore Square, and he said he hopes no one tries to push the homeless out to make the park safer.

"A lot of these people ... can't help the position that they're in. You can't stay in the shelter during the day. You can't hang in the parks. You can't sit in Moore Square. So, where are they supposed to go? Bullock said.

"It just amazes me that it takes someone dying in order for people to worry about people's safety," he said.