Durham mayor has ‘tremendous confidence’ in police department amid rash of violence

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Durham’s mayor said he has tremendous confidence in the city’s police chief and department as the Bull City experiences a deadly outbreak of gun violence.

Mayor Steve Schewel took questions from reporters following six shootings that left two dead and seven injured in a 25-hour period.

Schewel said he couldn’t confirm yet if the shootings were gang-related.

Five people were shot and one died in two separate drive-by shootings in Durham Monday night (CBS 17)

“Every time someone is shot in Durham, it rips a hole in their family. Not just in their body, but in that family. It rips a hole in their neighborhood. It rips a hole in our entire community. And we cannot have that,” Schewel said.

He quickly addressed the Durham City Council rejecting the proposal in June to add 18 officers to the police department.

“If we had 18 more officers, nine more officers. There wouldn’t have been one at the corner of Driver Street,” Schewel said.

Zaeveon Hershel Tucker, 17, was killed in a drive-by Tuesday afternoon on Driver Street.

The mayor laid out four points to help reduce gun violence across the city.

One being recruiting, hiring and training “the best” for the police department.

Schewel said the city is currently amid a 25-year decline in violence. There were 244 shootings in Durham in 2017 and 204 in 2018.

Durham is on pace to match last year’s total, Schewel said.

“Good gun laws” was Schewel’s second point but he acknowledged the North Carolina General Assembly must act in order for that to happen.

The scene on Dillard Street where multiple people were shot (CBS 17)

He blamed the power of the NRA lobby as to why legislators have not passed stricter gun laws.

Schewel said excellence in response to incidents, such as proper mental health or drug treatment, can help with the city’s violence.

The fourth point was getting at the root cause of the violence. Schewel said having a good job with a good wage and kids having good schools can get to the root of the problem.

“We can not stop talking about the importance of this issue,” Schewel said.

The rash of shootings come just a day before Halloween.

When asked if Halloween will be canceled:

“Halloween will go off as planned,” Schewel said. He expects his usual 1,500 trick-or-treaters at his home on Thursday.

Durham shootings timeline

Monday (One dead, four injured)
10:23 p.m.: Two men in the 1200-block of Wabash Street were hit by gunfire as a dark-colored vehicle drove by the pair and began shooting. One man was hit in the hand and the other was shot in the leg.

10:29 p.m.: A woman and two men were at the bus stop near the corner of Liberty and Dillard streets when a dark-colored car drove by and someone inside began shooting at the victims. Kerry Graham Jr., 24, of Durham, was taken to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead. The woman was grazed by a bullet on her hip and the other man was shot in the upper left shoulder.

Tuesday (One dead, three injured)
2 p.m.: Police were called to the 100-block of N. Driver Street, near the intersection with Main Street, in reference to a shooting. Once on scene, officers located 17-year-old Zaeveon Hershel Tucker dead in the front yard of Shepherd’s House United Methodist Church. Tucker was shot at least once in the back when a vehicle drove by and shots were fired from inside.

5:30 p.m.: A man was injured when he was shot near W. Club Boulevard and Watts Street. Witnesses reported multiple shots were fired from at least one vehicle and numerous shell casings were found in the area. Shortly after police responded to the shooting scene, a man and woman arrived at Duke Regional Hospital. The man had suffered a gunshot wound and the woman suffered injuries from flying debris.

11:37 p.m.: Officers arrived at the VA Hospital in the 500-block of Fulton Street and found that no one had been shot, but one vehicle had been struck five times by bullets. A woman was driving the vehicle on Shirley Street near Fulton Street when an unknown person began shooting at her. She was not injured.

11:45 p.m.: The victim said they were driving on Interstate 85 near Avondale Drive when another vehicle came up behind theirs and started shooting. The victim crashed his vehicle and then exited on to Avondale Drive. Twelve bullet holes were found in the vehicle, but the man was not injured.

Durham police have not released any suspect information related to the shootings.

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