Durham leaders consider ideas to curb gun violence in wake of 9-year-old’s shooting death

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Monday night’s Durham City Council meeting began with a moment of silence, and a message from Mayor Steve Schewel. 

“We need to be taking every action that we can to stop this senseless violence,” Schewel said. 

This came nearly 24-hours 9-year-old Zion Person was shot and killed while riding with family members Sunday night near Duke Street and Leon Street. 

“There’s a hole in the heart of our city,” Durham City Council member Mark-Anthony Middleton said. 

Middleton recalls talking with Zion’s aunt,  who was behind the wheel when the shooting began.

“They were on their way to get ice cream,” Middleton said. “That’s what you’re worried about when you are nine years old. That’s your job. To get ice cream, ride your bike and talk about who the cutest kid in class is, and dream about being a sports star. That was his job.”

For Middleton, he’s asking questions. 

“Are we doing all we can as a government, as leaders, to make this stuff less likely to happen,” he said. “We can’t stop every shooting, we know that. But, have we done everything we can? I don’t think so.”

Durham activist Minister Paul Scott and others gathered outside city hall, saying something needs to be done after Sunday night’s shooting, and another deadly shooting last Thursday near a Durham shopping center. 

“It’s inexcusable,” Scott said. “In order to change the Bull City, we have to cut the bull.”

Middleton told CBS 17 he’s open to ideas, including shot spotter technology and possibly more police officers. 

Overall, he believes there needs a concrete plan to address gun violence. 

Monday, Durham County Sheriff Clarence Birkhead also released a statement, responding to Person’s death: 

“Today, we learned about a terrible tragedy in our own back yard. I was saddened to see gun violence cut short the life of a 9-year-old boy and severely injure an 8-year-old child, right here in Durham. As Durham County Sheriff and on behalf of the men and women representing our Office, sincere condolences go to the families of both victims. Less than two weeks ago, the Durham County Sheriff’s Office celebrated National Night Out Against Crime. Right before meeting with community groups and neighbors county-wide, I talked about anti-gun violence; in the wake of mass shootings in Texas and Ohio that marred the first weekend of August.

“We stand together with Mayor Steve Schewel, Police Chief Davis and the Durham Police Department to get guns off our streets and identify those responsible for this incident. The unthinkable is becoming normal – and I am committed to change that mindset. Like before, my thoughts today return to the people of Durham — and for their safety.

“I cannot emphasize enough: we must reduce gun violence in Durham County. Our community is much better than this.”

Anyone with information about Sunday’s shooting is asked to call Investigator Cramer at (919) 560-4440, ext. 29284 or CrimeStoppers at (919) 683-1200. CrimeStoppers pays cash rewards for information leading to arrests in felony cases and callers never have to identify themselves. 

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