After series of shootings, Durham police chief calls for ‘enhanced’ gang task force

Some of the shootings in Durham that killed two people — including a teenager — and injured eight more in the past 48 hours may have been gang-related, Durham Police Chief C.J. Davis said in a news release Wednesday.

Davis said Durham police are building up an “enhanced gang task force” by adding additional personnel. The Durham County Sheriff’s Office will provide personnel, too, according to the police department.

“We are all frustrated at the continuation of violence in our community by people who see no other way of resolving their disputes, but through violent confrontation – many times through the use of a firearm,” Davis said in a statement.

The department already has a gang task force, a police spokeswoman said, but did not provide details of how many additional personnel from the police and sheriff’s department would be part of the enhanced force. In June, the City Council rejected Davis’ request for 18 additional officers.

Durham Police Chief Cerelyn “C.J.” Davis City of Durham

This isn’t the first time Davis has called for an end to the city’s violence and issued a call for action. In August, she joined city leaders at a press conference, vowing to fight gun violence, following the fatal shooting of 9-year-old Z’yon Person.

“It is our hope that directing more focused investigative efforts towards gang members, and other offenders who are responsible, will help to suppress gun violence throughout our city,” Davis said in Wednesday’s statement.

Durham police said some of the recent shootings are gang related, but do not seem to indicate a turf war because they occurred across the city.

No arrests have been made in any of the shootings.

“Our gang investigators, and Intelligence Unit, are carefully analyzing these cases and are gathering and sharing information with DPD officers,” Davis said in a statement.

48 hours of violence

The shootings began Monday night when one person was killed and four people were injured after two drive-by shootings that happened minutes apart.

The first shooting occurred at 10:23 p.m. in the 1200 block of Wabash Street, part of the McDougald Terrace public housing community, police said. Two men were walking near the street when shots were fired from a dark-colored car. One man was shot in the hand, and the other in the leg.

Six minutes later, a second shooting was reported at North Dillard and Liberty streets near the Urban Ministries of Durham campus.

Three people at a bus stop were injured, one of them fatally, by someone shooting from a dark-colored car, police said. The person fatally shot was later identified as Kerry Graham Jr., 24, of Durham, police said. He was shot in the chest and died at the hospital, police said. Of the injured, one woman was grazed in the hip. A man was shot in the left shoulder.

On Tuesday, police found Zaevon Hershel Tucker, 17, dead at the scene of shooting on 100 block of North Driver Street before 2 p.m. He collapsed on the lawn of a church, police said.

Later Tuesday, at 5:30 p.m. police arrived on the scene of a fourth shooting. At least three people were injured near the corner of Watts Street and Club Boulevard across from Northgate Mall, police said.

A man was shot with injuries that did not appear to be life-threatening and was taken to Duke Regional Hospital. Another man with a gunshot wound and a woman injured by flying debris arrived at the hospital later, police said.

Witnesses say multiple shots were fired from at least one vehicle. There were multiple shell casings in the area.

“We want to assure the community that our top priority is to investigate and solve the recent shooting crimes in an effort to prevent further gun violence, and loss of life,” Davis said.

The recent shootings bring the number of homicides this year in Durham to 34, compared to 27 at the same time last year, according to city of Durham statistics.

Durham police ask that people with information about recent crimes call Durham police or CrimeStoppers at 919-683-1200 to stay anonymous. CrimeStoppers rewards information leading to arrests in felony cases.

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Ashad Hajela reports on public safety for The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun. He studied journalism at New York University.