Crime

3-month-old baby hurt in Durham shooting. Sheriff urges public to fight gun violence.

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Witnessing a crime and reporting it can be just as frightening as being the victim of a crime. Here’s what you should do if you witness illegal activity.

Durham County Sheriff Clarence Birkhead called on the community to reduce gun violence Tuesday in light of the weekend’s mass shootings and a local incident that injured a 3-month-old baby last month.

He referenced the shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, that have killed at least 31 people before he turned to recent incidents in Durham County and the city.

“When I witness these acts in other parts of our country, my thoughts return to the people of Durham - and for their safety,” Birkhead said in a statement. “Our office works hand in hand with the Durham Police Department, responding to reports of gun violence and shooting victims.”

Three people were shot across Durham over the weekend, the sheriff said, the same weekend about 100 people gathered at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church downtown to talk about what causes and how to respond to violent crime.

In July, the Sheriff’s Office responded to 20 incidents involving firearms: 10 reported stolen and another 10 weapons seized, he said.

“These specific numbers do not include reports made to the Durham Police Department or other victims of gun violence, such as armed robbery,” Birkhead said. “Nor do these numbers include the three-month-old struck when a suspect fired into a car, as well as two teenagers on McNeil Lane who were all gunshot victims within the last 30 days.”

In a text, Durham Police Department spokesman Wil Glenn said the shooting incident that injured the baby occurred around July 22 when suspects fired shots into a vehicle. He could not clarify whether the 3-month-old was shot or injured in another way during the shooting.

In the city of Durham, reported violent crime this year was up 7.1 percent as of July 27 compared to the same time last year.

Tuesday is National Night Out, and Birkhead said the Sheriff’s Office would visit 70 anti-crime events across Durham County. Events were scheduled in almost 17,000 communities in the United States and Canada and military bases around the world, his statement said.

Raleigh Police Senior Officer M.V. Curci takes a plunge down the waterslide as part of National Night Out on Aug. 6, 2019. The annual event promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make neighborhoods safer.

“The Durham County Sheriff’s Office is, and will continue to be, relentless in getting illegal firearms off our streets,” Birkhead said in his statement. “Our deputies routinely seize weapons while investigating all criminal incidents. Not only must our deputies plan, train and prepare to prevent or respond to mass shootings, but we must also combat the single shootings which are all too frequent.”

Birkhead also said he will continue to collaborate with other agencies to fight gun violence, review internal methods to reduce gun violence, and implement strategies to reduce illegal firearms from the street.

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Virginia Bridges covers criminal justice in Orange and Durham counties for The Herald-Sun and The News & Observer. She has worked for newspapers for more than 15 years. In 2017, the N.C. Press Association awarded her first place for beat feature reporting. The N.C. State Bar Association awarded her the 2018 Media & Law Award for Best Series.
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