Local News

Family says teen's death should be wake-up call

Posted May 11, 2011 1:17 p.m. EDT
Updated May 11, 2011 5:10 p.m. EDT

— The grandmother of a 13-year-old killed in a shooting outside a Durham apartment building says the crime should serve as a reminder to the community that violence must stop.

Diane Billings' granddaughter, Shakanah China, was standing outside 7 Atka Court early Tuesday evening when, witnesses told police, someone fired several shots from a green, older-model Ford Windstar or Chevrolet Astro van.

The van, which had several people inside, was last seen heading west on Holloway Street, police said.

Shakanah, a seventh-grader at Lakeview School in Durham, was taken to Duke University Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Residents posted signs in the neighborhood Wednesday that urged an end to the random acts, and a candlelight vigil was planned for 7 p.m. Wednesday at the site of the shooting.

"It's really touching the heart of a lot of people, and it should," Billings said Wednesday. "It should be a wake-up call. Stop the violence. Stop this. This is crazy . This is not the way. Why take out our young ones? Let them grow up and have a future."

Tuesday's shooting isn't the first in the neighborhood, which is located off Holloway Street.

In June 2009, a 16-year-old girl was injured under similar circumstances when she was shot in the back of the head while standing with several friends outside 8 Atka Court.

Police said the girl was an innocent victim, and they arrested a 17-year-old boy in that case.

Family members said they don't believe Shakanah was the intended target of Tuesday's shooting.

Police said Wednesday they were following up on several leads, and anyone with information is asked to call the Durham Police Department at 919-560-4440 or Crime Stoppers at 919-683-1200.

Meanwhile Wednesday, counselors were on hand at Lakeview School, a small school with a population of about 150, to help students cope with the loss.

Billings said Shakanah was a happy girl with a smile that could brighten anyone's day.

"She liked to crack jokes, and she was always smiling," Billings said.

Billings said she wishes her granddaughter would have had the chance to grow up to be the nurse she dreamed of becoming.

"Her memory will always be with us. We are still going to love her. We are going to miss her," Billings said. "Love your family, love your children. Be there for them, because you never know when it's going to be the last time you see that child."

Shakanah's funeral will be 1 p.m. Friday at First United Antioch Baptist Church, 1415 Holloway St., Durham.

A memorial fund has been established to help her family with expenses. Donations can be made at any branch of the State Employees' Credit Union under the name of Diane Hanes.