About 20 minutes before a vigil to mark another fatal shooting, children chased an ice cream truck down Dayton Street; adults followed behind or stood by the apartments and along the sidewalks.
At around 6:40 p.m. Monday a half dozen marked and unmarked police cars pulled up, and law enforcement officials opened the doors and walked into the McDougald Terrace public housing community.
Members of Bull City United, in their neon yellow shirts, walked onto the corner and started to set up for a vigil and response to the Friday, June 30, fatal shooting of Carl Suitt Jr.
Suitt, 27, of Durham was dead at about 6 a.m. in a courtyard between Dayton and Wabash streets, police said.
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As members of Bull City United and others started to speak about bringing change and reaching out to the young men, the number of actual McDouglad Terrace residents dwindled to a handful, if that.
Instead, those at the corner of Dayton and Wabash streets among the monotonous brick buildings in the city’s largest housing complex included police, reporters, community activists, and current and potential politicians.
It may have been the rain that started with drizzle and turned into a drench. It may have been the man who was shot. Or it may have been about a community weary of police and skeptical of vigils.
Bull City United and other organizations are working to bring peace and change in the community where children regularly see crime tape, hear shootings and have bullets rip holes in their apartments.
Bull City United, a Durham County Health Department initiative, is implementing a national Cure Violence crime-reduction model recommended by the U.S. Department of Justice. The model targets violence like an infectious disease that spreads in clusters and epidemic waves. It hires people who grew up in the neighborhoods to work in them.
In Durham, the organization is focusing on the Southside neighborhood and the McDougald Terrace public housing community.
Within 72 hours of shootings in those areas, Bull City United holds a shooting response, which includes a candlelight vigil.
Ashley Canady, president of McDougald Terrace’s resident council, said a couple of residents from the community stayed for the vigil.
“I don’t know if it’s weather, or it is people just feel like it is not going to change,” Canady said. “I feel like people are tired of coming to vigils. Tired of just coming to stuff. This has become normal to them, so coming to a vigil is just another day for them.”
Dorel Clayton, a supervisor with Bull City United, said it’s not that everyone isn’t tired of the shooting, but Suitt wasn’t well liked in the community and police relations with the community are strained, he said.
“A lot of people, whether they are on the good side or the bad side of the law, a lot of people stay away,” he said.
Raheem Hunt, a violence interrupter with Bull City United, told the crowd that he and others have to put in the foot work to make a change.
“People have to get out here and really do this thing,” he said. “It can’t be we just rally like this when something like this takes place.”
People need to take the kids out of the community to show them life there is not the norm.
“Because if this is all that they see, they don’t know better,” he said.
Jackie Wagstaff, a former Durham City Councilwoman and former school board member, has been working with residents in the McDougald Terrrace almost on a daily basis. She agreed that Suitt wasn’t well liked in the community and that residents are skeptical of change.
In an interview, Wagstaff pointed out the many piles of deflated balloons, dusty piles of stuffed animals and fake flowers honoring someone who has been killed in the community.
“It gets to the point, you get numb to all the violence,” she said. “You just don’t think it is going to change for you as an individual or for the community.”
But that doesn’t mean change can’t come, Wagstaff said. It will take a persistent effort. Many who try to help come with good intentions but leave when they don’t get an immediate result or significant gratitude.
“What we are going to do is we are going to keep doing what we do,” she said. “We get one every month that signs onto the document of change, that is one less that is supporting what is not good.”