Commentary

Saunders: Random violence makes us all afraid

bsaunders@newsobserver.comSeptember 4, 2013 

My schoolmate from Rockingham didn’t want to talk, and I understood. Who would under these circumstances?

His son was killed four days ago – kidnapped, robbed and shot after stopping at a gas station in Fayetteville to ask for directions.

Police said Errol Williams, 27, of Rockingham, was killed around 4:45 a.m. Sunday as he tried to escape three men who minutes earlier had driven away from the station with him.

Fayetteville Police spokesman Lt. Todd Joyce said Kelly Eugene Elliott, 31, is the suspected gunman and is wanted on murder, kidnapping and robbery charges. Anthony Solomon Porter and Eric Lamont Phillips are “known associates” of Elliott but have not been identified as suspects in the murder, Joyce said. Phillips was arrested Wednesday on unrelated charges.

In an interview with the Fayetteville Observer, Chief Harold Medlock said he thinks the suspects, whoever they are, were lying in wait to rob someone, possibly anyone who showed up at the Kangaroo on Bragg Boulevard. They apparently didn’t know their victim, nor he they.

Fears for safety

Whoever did what Elliott and his cohorts are accused of doing is capable of anything. That’s why Chief Medlock said he is worried about the safety of Fayetteville residents and of his officers.

The suspects allegedly went back to the gas station later Sunday to retrieve the surveillance footage and apparently decided to rob two customers while they were at it. They were, of course, too late to get the footage because police had already taken it.

I didn’t know Errol Williams, who served his country in the U.S. Navy, but I went to school with his father and aunt. I haven’t seen either in many years, but when you grow up with someone and see them every school day for 12 years, you don’t stop being friends just because you don’t see them. They were and no doubt still are a fine family who didn’t deserve this.

No one does.

Modern-day highwaymen

File this one under the “I may be paranoid but I’m not crazy” category. It is precisely for fear of running into murderous predators – land pirates such as the ones who killed Errol Williams – that I no longer stop at small gas stations along the highway at night. I’m not too thrilled about doing so in the daytime, either.

These modern-day highwaymen, descended from the ones who existed in the Bible, in the Wild West and throughout history, are also the reason I’m constantly admonishing the people I love and care about to avoid going out late at night – how sad is that? – and to be mindful of their surroundings.

There are among us people who have no regard for anyone and care not a whit about the devastation their cruelty wreaks upon families of their victims.

The Temptations described them in 1972 in a poignant and, sadly, still relevant song called “Take a Look Around:”

Desperate with no sense of values.

Just an evil mind lurking through the night.

Because of you

The streets ain’t safe no more for walking

Because you’re feeling so uptight.

Nor, they might have added, are they safe for stopping and asking directions.

So, even though you didn’t know him, say a prayer for my friends’ son and nephew.

While you’re at it, say a prayer for all of us.

bsaunders@newsobserver.com or 919-836-2811

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