Local News

Officials insist Durham Freeway safe to travel

Posted June 21, 2011 12:14 p.m. EDT
Updated June 21, 2011 4:58 p.m. EDT

— Three people have been shot at on or near the Durham Freeway in the last three months, but local officials said Tuesday that they have no qualms about driving on the highway.

A 32-year-old man told police that someone inside two vehicles following him on the Durham Freeway late Monday fired shots at his car between the Briggs Avenue and Ellis Road exits. The gunfire caused the man to cross the median and crash in the northbound lanes, police said.

Police said the shooting is unrelated to a Saturday night shooting at Jackie Robinson Drive and Fayetteville Street, which is just off the highway. Michael Orlando Hunter, 30, died in that shooting.

Also, Demario Eugene Carr, 26, died two days after a March 19 shooting on the Durham Freeway near North Roxboro Street.

Investigators said none of the shootings appear to be random violence, and officials said people who drive on the Durham Freeway, also known as N.C. Highway 147, shouldn't be concerned.

"The Durham Freeway is as safe as any other freeway in the country," Police Chief Jose Lopez said.

Some people wrote on WRAL.com that they were taking other routes to work and to drive through Durham to avoid traveling on the Durham Freeway.

Mayor Bill Bell said he doesn't consider the highway to be unsafe, and Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce officials said they have heard no concerns from business owners about the highway.

"Like many cities, we have too many guns, too many drugs and too many thugs. When you get that combination together, it can be deadly," City Councilman Eugene Brown said. "I think, in terms of the Durham Freeway, this is an aberration. By that, I mean (these shootings) are the patchwork and not the pattern."

Still, police plan to step up patrols along the Durham Freeway to make sure people feel safe.

Durham resident Lanier Blum said she was reassured by the police's action.

"I'm not personally concerned, but it's concerning that you know someone is out there targeting someone and shooting them," Blum said.

A man has been charged in the March shooting, but police are still searching for the gunmen in the other two incidents. Anyone with information about the cases is asked to call Durham police at 919-560-4415 or Crime Stoppers at 919-683-1200.