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Conway ends SOE; citizens remain on edge

CONWAY – There was once a time when the citizens of this small Northampton County town could go to bed at night without worrying about crime, or even locking the doors of the vehicles parked in their yards.

Now, after two weeks worth of criminal activity – to include a murder and shots fired into an occupied residence and vehicle – Conway citizens are uneasy over what the future may hold. And the town’s mayor is just as concerned as the populace.

This past weekend, Mayor Brian Bolton signed his name on the dotted line of a proclamation that put a State of Emergency (SOE) in place in this town of 836 citizens. As stated in the proclamation, the SOE was, “due to recent criminal activity and the escalation of that activity.”

The SOE – which banned the sale, possession or consumption (except on one’s property) of all alcohol as well as a volunteer curfew overnight – was lifted at 9 a.m. on Monday, July 6.

“It (SOE) was something we, as town officials, needed to do in an effort to get the attention of those committing these crimes that we’re not going to tolerate such activity in our town,” Bolton told the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald just hours after the proclamation was rescinded. “It was a decision I struggled with making, especially in light of it being a big holiday weekend, but our Town Charter notes that the leaders of this town are empowered to do what it takes to maintain public safety and we take those words very seriously.”

Bolton said there were no incidents reported during the time period of the SOE, which began at 6 p.m. on Friday.

“In general, the people that live in Conway were appreciative and understanding of the action we took,” the Mayor noted. “Perhaps those living elsewhere thought we may have gone overboard in our logic, but we as town officials felt obligated to the protection of our citizens. Up until just recently the thought of a crime wave in our little town was unthinkable.”

That all started June 26 when Shuntavius Vaughan was shot and killed at 305 Fields Drive at the Conway Village Apartments. Four suspects in that murder, all from Conway, are now in custody. The fourth and final suspect was captured in Murfreesboro on June 30.

One day later (July 1), shots were fired in the early morning hours into a residence at 402 West Main Street. Conway Police Chief Billy Duke said at that time he was concerned this shooting may be connected to the murder of the 24-year-old Vaughan.

“This residence was occupied by four individuals; fortunately no one was hurt,” said Duke in an interview with this newspaper last week. “We are asking the public for help. If anyone saw or heard anything late Tuesday night into early Wednesday morning, we’re asking you to please give us a call.”

Duke said the shooting was reported at 12:30 a.m. Wednesday.

“The investigation has led us to believe that the shots were fired from a vehicle traveling on Garris Street at its intersection with Main Street,” Duke noted. “However, no one in the residence saw or heard a vehicle at that particular time. Perhaps someone else in our town saw or heard something. If so, please give us a call.”

Three bullet holes were discovered on the east, outside wall of the residence.

A little more than 24 hours later, a shooting occurred Thursday in the mid-afternoon hours at NC Highway 35 and Deberry Mill Road. The victim was driving when another car drove up beside him and shot into the driver’s side window. The victim was hit and is hospitalized.

Bolton said due to that shooting occurring just beyond Conway’s town limits, the investigation is being handled by the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office.

NCSO Captain M.D. DeLoatch Sr. of the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office said the July 2 shooting does not appear to be linked to Vaughan’s murder.

DeLoatch said the sheriff’s office is looking for Roger Lamont Spencer, who is from the Conway area. He is described as a brown-skinned black male with shoulder-length dreadlocks. He stands between 5-feet, 7-inches, to 5-feet, 8-inches tall and weighs about 160 pounds. Warrants have been obtained for his arrest on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury.

Meanwhile, Bolton said he and the rest of the law-abiding Conway citizens want their little town to return to its peaceful past.

“We’re asking our citizens to be diligent in helping to preserve public health and safety,” Bolton said Monday. “Although there is no curfew in place, if you do not need to be out on our streets between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. it will be greatly appreciated.”

The regular monthly meeting of the Conway Town Commissioners is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. today (Tuesday) at the Town Hall. Bolton said he expects a large turnout.

“Our citizens want answers to all this crime,” Bolton stressed. “We’re looking at a couple of things that may help, to include applying for a federal grant that will add part-time officers to our police department.”

Bolton added that the CEO of the firm that manages Conway Village Apartments is scheduled to attend tonight’s meeting.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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