DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Six people were shot in Durham within minutes of each other on Wednesday night, and one woman said she called Durham 911 six times before someone answered the phone.
The first shooting happened near the intersection of Wabash Street and Ridgeway Avenue in the McDougald Terrace public housing community, where four people were shot and one of those individuals was killed.
Police said 30-year-old Larry Wynne Jackson Jr. died a short time after he was transported to the hospital. A man and a woman were also transported after they were shot.
A woman was treated at the scene with a graze wound to her foot.
The second shooting occurred in the 1000 block of Linwood Avenue where two people were shot.
Ashley Canady was outside her apartment at McDougald Terrace when she heard the shots ring out during the first shooting.
“I panicked, I immediately started grabbing the kids, it was a lot of mayhem going on,” Canady said.
She said she tried to call 911, but she said it took her a while to get through.
“I called 911 six times, finally on the sixth time, I actually got someone from 911,” Canady said.
While she was trying to get ahold of 911, she said she and others in the community began rendering aid to Jackson, who had been shot while working on a car on Wabash Street, and another woman nearby had also been shot.
“We were just holding wounds, we were just talking to them, trying to keep them alert,” Canady said.
She said her neighbors at McDougald Terrace were the first responders and she argues that no one should have to call 911 that many times to get through.
“I know you guys are understaffed, but there’s still no excuse for it,” Canady said.
Currently there are 25 vacant positions at the 911 call center.
During Thursday afternoon’s Durham City Council work session, Councilman Mark-Anthony Middleton asked if the council could revisit where the city is with 911 operator staffing after multiple people called 911 to report Wednesday night’s shooting but could not get through.
Middleton asked City Manager Wanda Page if Durham would consider asking the Raleigh Wake Call Center to help them answer 911 calls again.
From December 2020 to the end of May, Raleigh Wake 911 helped Durham answer an average of 1,900 calls a month. In May, the city had 26 vacancies in its 911 call center.
On June 1, the city told CBS 17 they had enough call takers to get the job done.
“Our staffing levels now are back to where they were in late summer of last year,” said Bo Ferguson, Deputy City Manager for the city. “We’re back to where we were in October and September and in those months, we were very successful at handling all of Durham’s call volume.”
But during the city council work session on Thursday, she said it was Raleigh-Wake’s decision to no longer assist them back in June.
“The Raleigh call center wanted us to end that kind of relationship and so were required to do it,” Page told council.
Middleton said the city should consider seeking help from somewhere until they are able to bring on more staff.
“I can’t imagine governing a city where folks are calling 911 and they’re not getting a response,” Middleton said. “I think that’s an emergency situation that requires immediate attention.”
CBS 17 reached out to the city of Durham about the residents’ concerns after they said they were not able to get ahold of 911 to report Wednesday night’s shooting.
The city said between 9:15 p/m. and 9:45 p.m., the city received 81 calls as people were calling about the two shootings.
The city said any time the center receives heavy volumes of calls like these, callers may experience delays but should stay on the line and their call will be answered.
Some residents have also reported getting recordings when they are waiting for a 911 operator to pick up.
The City of Durham is investigating these claims, as they said 911 callers should not be hearing recordings.
City officials said efforts are continuing to recruit more 911 operators.
Durham City Council will further discuss the staffing situation at the 911 call center at their next city council work session in September.