‘I don’t understand,’ says aunt after 9-year-old boy fatally shot in Durham

The Durham Police Department is investigating the death of a 9-year-old boy shot Sunday night in an incident the police chief called yet “another act of senseless violence” in the city.

Two children — Z’yon Person, 9, and an unnamed 8-year-old who was shot in the arm — were among the passengers in a Ford Escape near Duke and Leon streets when someone in a burgundy Honda Accord with tinted windows fired shots into their car, according to a Police Department news release.

There was one adult and five children in the car, police spokesman Wil Glenn said in an email.

Investigators do not believe the shooting was a random act, the release said.

The News & Observer’s media partner, ABC11, reported that the boy’s aunt Danyell Ragland was driving Z’yon, his sister and three cousins to Pelican’s SnowBalls.

Ragland told ABC11 that she was trying to turn when she heard a horn and then gunshots

“I don’t know what to do. They took my nephew,” she told ABC11. “My nephew is like my son. I don’t understand.”

Z’yon lived in Raleigh and attended Penny Road Elementary School in Cary.

A GoFundMe memorial fund campaign to help the family pay for his funeral ( had raised $1,995 toward a $5,000 goal as of Wednesday afternoon.

Neighbors hear gunshots

The Rev. Laurie Coffman was washing dishes in her Leon Street home when she heard about nine shots and called 911 at 8:41 p.m.

“Pop! Pop! Pop!” said Coffman a chaplain at Croasdaile Village retirement community.

“It’s troubling when there are mass shootings,” but the idea that road rage or a squabble, if that’s what it was, could “end up with kids dead,” is tragic, she said.

Another Leon Street resident, Sam Rose, was watching television when she got up, looked out the window and saw what she thought was a vehicle backfiring. She realized later it was probably the gunshots.

Her partner saw a dark sedan traveling down Leon street, appearing to turn off Duke Street, she said.

“Everything happened so quickly that we kind of just took cover and waited,” she said.

When police came to her street and marked shell casings in front of her home, just feet from her car, it was “terrifying,” Rose said.

In a statement, Durham Police Chief C.J. Davis extended condolences to Z’yon’s family.

“This is another act of senseless violence that simply must be stopped and we are working aggressively to identify the people involved,” she said. “I am asking anyone with information to come forward and speak with our investigators.”

Durham County Sheriff Clarence Birkhead said he stands together with city officials in efforts to guns off the streets.

“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,” Birkhead said in a statement.

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

Girl, baby, shot last month

On July 15, an 8-year-old girl was shot in the back while inside her home in the Franklin Village community in the 600 block on McNeil Lane, police said.

On July 22 a 3-month-old was shot in the thigh after someone shot into a vehicle traveling on Miami Boulevard and Lynn Road, police said.

There were 23 homicides in Durham as of Aug. 10, and overall violent crime — aggravated assault, robbery, rape and homicide — was up 6.1% compared to the same time last year, according to the Police Department website.

More than 220 children and teenagers in North Carolina have died from gun violence in the past five years, according to a McClatchy analysis of data compiled by nonprofit news organization The Trace, The News & Observer has reported.

In 2016 and 2017, at least another 672 teens and kids in North Carolina went to a hospital for a firearm-related injury and 242 were hospitalized, according to a N.C. Division of Public Health report.

Anyone with information in 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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