Shana Williams stood in front of a makeshift memorial of balloons, candles, teddy bears, plastic flowers and an empty cognac bottle that marked the spot where her best friend Latonya Denise Morris was gunned down in broad daylight this week.
Police say Morris, 37, was the victim of a drive-by shooting, but investigators have not yet made an arrest in what is the city’s second homicide of the year.
Williams, who lives in the neighborhood just south of downtown where her friend died, did not want to talk Wednesday morning. She had just finished helping the family make funeral arrangements for Morris, who will be buried Monday. Instead, she stood alone silently and cried for her slain friend.
Several more people came and stood near the memorial alongside a curb in a parking lot off Elm Street near East Main Street. Someone had left gold, black, purple and silver helium balloons that were held in place by two small gray stones. Toni Johnson, who lives in the neighborhood, lit a cigarette, looked at the memorial and shook her head.
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State records show that Morris had struggled in the past with crack cocaine. She had prior convictions for possession of the drug dating back to the 1999.
“She was a good person, regardless of what she did,” Johnson said. “She didn’t deserve this.”
Police say Morris was standing on a patch of grass near the parking lot just after 1 p.m. Monday when she was struck by several gunshots fired by someone in a navy blue Lincoln Navigator.
A woman who called 911 told a dispatcher that she was standing near Morris when two young men in the Navigator with tinted windows rolled through the parking lot. One of the men started firing, and the caller told the dispatcher that she “took off running.
“I wasn’t going to stand there and get shot,” said the caller, whose name was not made public.
The caller said the men were “black dudes” who “looked young.” One of the men was wearing a black hoodie, the other a red hoodie, the woman told the dispatcher.
Emergency medical technicians worked to save Morris, but she died at a hospital a short time later, police spokeswoman Kammie Michael reported.
Police say the shooting did not appear to be a random attack, but they have not yet disclosed a motive for the shooting or named a suspect.
A third person who lives in the neighborhood, Raymond McLean, said Morris was his dad’s niece. McLean said Morris lived with one of her aunts and was childless. But she was the proud owner of two dogs, a Rottweiler named “King” and a poodle named “Oreo.”
“Those were her kids,” McLean said.
A memorial service has been scheduled for Monday at the Holloway Funeral Home on N.C. 55 in Durham. Visitation is at noon followed by the funeral at 1 p.m.
Police urge anyone with information about the shooting to call 919-560-4440, ext. 29322, 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.