Durham commissioner: Woman died in neighborhood beset by drugs, prostitution

A Durham County Commissioner says the neighborhood where a troubled young woman was found shot dead on Wednesday night has long been plagued by violence, prostitution and drugs.

Police found Kourtney Krista Dawson, 25, dead near the intersection of North Guthrie Avenue and Holloway Street, in front of the Antioch Baptist Church where Michael Page has served as pastor for nearly 15 years.

“I have sat with the city’s major leaders; with the police chief, the mayor and the sheriff,” Page, a Durham County commissioner, said Thursday afternoon. “This is not something that’s going to go away. We have got to do something more.”

Police have not made an arrest in the case.

At least two people called 911 at 9:10 p.m. and 9:17 p.m. on Wednesday to report “over a half dozen shots fired.”

One caller told an emergency dispatcher that she had just gotten off a city bus and saw “somebody on the ground, dead,” according to a copy of a 911 recording made public Thursday by the Durham Police Department.

The caller, who was not identified, said a man told her Dawson “got shot by my nephew,” according to the 911 recording.

Page, who has been a county commissioner for eight years, said despite law enforcement efforts to take down drug havens in the neighborhood and stem prostitution with entrapment programs, the problems persist. He thinks the section of sidewalk in front of his church is a “pickup point” where middle-aged men pick up young women who are selling sex.

“You see them get in and out of cars,” he said about the women who walk up and down the sidewalk waving at passersby. “Thirty minutes later they are dropped right off on the street.”

Page is worried because the problems have become so persistent that residents have “almost accepted” the presence of illegal activity in the community. But he said Dawson’s death is an indicator of just how bad the problems of prostitution, drugs and violence have become.

“It’s strange because no one is upset,” he said about the shooting Thursday afternoon. “It’s like, ‘Well that’s what we do. This has happened again.’ We have got some major problems there.”

The shooting occurred about 1.5 hours after Antioch Baptist adjourned its weekly Bible Study.

Dawson was a native of Florida. She was convicted in Durham on charges of soliciting for prostitution last year and was scheduled to appear in court March 11 on another prostitution charge, state records show.

Her family members could not be reached Thursday.

Page said the neighborhood around his church is “losing citizens” and that fatal shootings like the one Wednesday night are “putting fear in the heart of the community.”

“I know law enforcement has tried to make it go away, but it’s not working,” he said. “Everyone knows that it’s happening, and she died as a result of that.”

Police ask anyone with information to call investigators at 919-560-4440, ext. 29325, or CrimeStoppers at 919-683-1200.

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