Uprise in gun violence causes worry in Durham, NC

Ava Riach, Business Manager

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Increased gun violence incidents in Durham, N.C. have begun to cause panic in residents and they have started going to the police hoping for them to act on these various occurrences. Despite this, the violence continues with new shootings happening weekly. Bullet holes can be seen on cars and houses on South Street in Durham. 

“I feel the same pain and frustration others feel. I live here too. My children fear the threat of gun violence, too, being forced to shelter in place at school. Like many families, mine has been touched by the tragedy of gun violence. The Durham County District Attorney’s Office takes violent crime very seriously – in fact the entire office is structured around prosecuting it,” said District Attorney Satana Deberry.

A drive-by shooting was witnessed Nov. 27, with reports saying more than 30 shots were heard before midnight in the 1400 block of South Street. An unidentified man was visiting a home when he was shot in the back. He has since been released from the hospital and had no life-threatening injuries. It was not clear whether the victim was targeted or a bystander and no arrests have been made so far for this case. Since the incident, a police spokeswoman has said that the city has shifted resources to the area. 

City Councilman Mark-Anthony Middleton has taken action by “calling for the police chief to resubmit her request for the city to hire more officers, wanting to fund recommendations from the city’s public safety task forces, and asking other council members to support the purchase of gunshot detection technology,” according to WRAL.

Victoria Amanda St. Hillaire, 28, was a victim of gun violence. November 25, police reported that St. Hillaire was gunned down by her partner Lequintin Ford, 33, outside of the UNC Family Medicine Center at Durham, her workplace. Police reported that Ford then turned the gun on himself. St. Hillaire had been working as a certified medical assistant since September and had filed three domestic violence protective orders prior to the incident. The Durham County Sheriff’s Office has a team ready to help domestic violence survivors and is located inside the Durham County Courthouse.

“I think it’s a very tough situation to handle. Dealing with gangs is very dangerous and it puts everyone’s lives at stake. I think that they should take action and help everyone they can,” said Alyssa Bartholomew, junior. 

Multiple Durham neighborhoods have been affected by the violence that has been spreading, and many have been connected to gangs. A vigil held Nov. 25 was disrupted because a man was shot in the foot after an altercation on Thelma Street. Former gang member Otis “Vegas Don” Lyons began using musical production and founded the Campaign 4 Change nonprofit, which “helps improve the lives of disadvantaged youth in Durham,” according to WRAL. Durham Police Chief C.J. Davis announced a new task force that will focus on stopping gang activity in the city October 2019. 

Robert Belcher, whose brother was fatally shot Nov. 24 at the McDougald Terrace housing complex, runs a nonprofit named A Chance 2 Change, created to tackle gun violence. McDougald believes that the mayor needs to act to create change in the city.

In light of all of these incidents, a boy scout built a garden in Durham to spread the message of world peace. Shaun Deardorff, 18, is a senior at Jordan High School and built the garden in Campus Hill Park. He designed a sculpture and his project mentor, Joseph Lemmens, created the design into a 3D, 15-foot tall aluminum model. The model took two weeks and about 45 volunteers to complete. Deardorff hopes to bring awareness to the issue of gun violence and that future generations will experience less gun violence. 

“A simple message of peace and love is spelled out in several languages around the sculpture including Russian, Japanese, Vietnamese, German, and Arabic,” according to WRAL.