The following editorial appeared in the Fayetteville Observer:
Add Joseph Braxton III to the face of Fayetteville’s shameful tombstone. One more bright, promising young man shot and killed. One more sad statistic in a town that has too many of them.
He was 16 years old. That’s all – 16.
He was on his way to help a young woman celebrate her 16th birthday. He never got to the party, but was gunned down, across the street, as he arrived.
He was a friend of the family. He mowed their lawn, one of the things he did to make a buck – in a time when too many other teens his age make money by dealing drugs, stealing cars or participating in gang activities. He often got around on a skateboard, this youngest child and only son in a family of six children. He had moved here from New York three years ago.
It’s the third such killing of a teenager at a party in the past year. The specter of the earlier killings led Angelique Saxton-Vanderhorst to have 10 chaperones at her daughter’s sweet-16 party. They checked guests for guns at the door and had guests wear special ID bracelets.
Three older and uninvited guests did appear. They were asked to leave. It’s unclear if one of them was the shooter. It’s also unclear if Braxton’s shooter knew him and had a reason to go after him, or if the shooting was random.
Braxton’s family and friends are heartbroken. The entire community should be. The young man who was his family’s favorite comedian, whose smile lit up a room, will only smile in photographs.
Mourning, for us, isn’t happening in a void. It’s accompanied by anger that’s growing more intense as the hours and days pass.
How many young men must we lose before we stop this violence? How long do we tolerate a violent subculture in which, as Police Chief Harold Medlock once put it, guns are “a fashion accessory”?
And how long before this city joins others we have profiled in the past year, declaring war on gangs and violent individuals, telling them Fayetteville no longer has room for them?
That requires a strategy, with buy-in from every agency involved. It requires coordination and accountability too – elements often missing from problem-solving efforts here.
And it requires the support of Fayetteville residents, who need to say, in the loudest-possible chorus: No more.
May Joseph Braxton III rest in peace. And may his memory drive a movement that will keep others like him safe and on course to live a full and happy life.
MCT Information Services