‘A community issue’

It seems like the most normal of late-spring Sunday afternoons: swimming in an apartment complex pool, heading off for an evening of grilling hotdogs.

But for the five adults and five children heading along Hillandale Road in a Honda Pilot just before 5 p.m. Sunday, the afternoon turned quickly tragic. As occupants of the Honda and police related events, another vehicle first tailgated, then pulled alongside.

Shots rang out, perhaps eight, perhaps more. One of them hit 7-year-old Kamari Munerlyn, sitting in the rear seat. “Mom, I think I’m shot,” he said, blood gushing from a wound.

The anguished voice of his mother, Felicia Parker, talking to the emergency 911 operator moments later, told it all:

“He’s not waking up.”

One of the first police officers on the scene administered CPR. Emergency Medical Services workers rushed him to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Even in a city that sees too much violence, in a world where innocent children are too often the unintended victims of adult conflicts large and small, it seemed an especially dispiriting event. A 7-year-old’s life snuffed out in an instant, on the way home from an afternoon of swimming.

Beyond expressing grief and sympathy, it’s hard to grasp what to say. We don’t know, at least not as of Tuesday evening, what provoked the shots. Parker told The Herald-Sun’s Virginia Bridges Monday afternoon that she had been the target of three other shootings since January 2016. She says she knows who fired the latest shots and that it was the same person who fired in at least one other of the incidents.

We know that last year saw the highest number of killings in Durham in 36 years. We know that other violent crime has ticked up.

Police Chief C.J. Davis, on the job almost exactly a year, has launched several initiatives to try to reverse the trend. There are signs of progress, but also setbacks like Sunday’s fatal shooting. “I just don’t think you can be conclusive either way,” City Manager Tom Bonfield said Monday, although he believes police efforts are paying off.

But we know there are too many guns on the streets. We know that poverty can raise tensions and can prod some people toward crime. We know that drugs have overwhelmed too many people, and that our legal system turns too many minor drug offenses into serious sentences that can upend a person’s prospects, perhaps irreversibly.

And perhaps no program, no investment, no services can ever eliminate anger spiraling into violence.

Mayor Bill Bell was right, however, when he said “It is a community issue.” That’s a challenge for all of us to be engaged in the search for solutions.