Expose the elephant – just don’t shoot him

Published 9:49 am Tuesday, August 16, 2016

If no one else will address the elephant in the room, at least there are those of non-violence mindset in Ahoskie that are not scared to do so.

On Friday of last week, there was a march and prayer/candlelight vigil held on the streets of Ahoskie and then inside at New Ahoskie Baptist Church held in memory of the late Lakiesha Sutton.

Unless you’ve been out of town or out of touch, we all were horrified to learn of the tragic murder of Ms. Sutton on Aug. 3. Here was a young woman, age 23, who was working two jobs and had plans to enter college in an effort to enrich her life and that of her three-year-old son.

She was a dedicated employee…..called in to work on her night off when a co-worker came down with an illness.

In the wee hours of Wednesday morning (Aug. 3) while the majority of us were safe and secure, sleeping in our homes, Sutton confronted individuals who were involved in an argument in the parking lot of her employer – Murphy Express. Her attempt to restore peace was met with the most severe retaliation known to man….a pistol was drawn, shots were fired and three individuals were struck by bullets. Two survived their wounds….Sutton did not.

Shakur Deandre Stephenson of Murfreesboro was quickly identified by Ahoskie Police investigators as the alleged shooter. He was arrested eight days later in the Richmond (Virginia) area.

Outside of a young mother being gunned down while at work, what enraged the majority of those living here in and around Ahoskie is the fact that Sutton’s alleged murderer was arrested in 2013 for attempted murder when he shot a man at the Bryantville Community Building near Como. Local residents took to social media, posting a story from the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald concerning that June 15, 2013 shooting. They wondered how Stephenson could be out of jail this quickly, considering the severity of his previous criminal activity.

The answer is he never was convicted. Judicial records show the victim in Como shooting did not show up in court on Sept. 24, 2013. The state prosecutor asked for a continuance in order to find the victim and schedule another court date. The judge denied that request and dismissed the charges against Stephenson.

Since that time I’ve learned of several other instances where victims of gun-related crimes have either failed to show up in court or refused to testify against those who pulled the trigger.

This brings me back to the elephant in the room: black-on-black crime. It’s at epidemic levels across America. According to the statistics from the FBI, 2,491 blacks were murdered in 2013 (the latest stats available). Of those homicides 2,245 were committed by blacks.

At Friday’s march there were signs that read “Stop the Violence” and “Let Me Live.” Meanwhile, inside the church, the main focus, as it should have been, was to rally around the Sutton family. However, there was a feeling in the air that local citizens – of all ages, races, and religions – are fed up with the growing number of crimes involving guns and between members of one race.

Citizens here in our area, and across the nation, are indeed scared for their lives. We are no longer safe in the places where we never before have felt threatened….clear examples are convenience stores (at any time of the day or night) and, considering what took place on Saturday at Crabtree Mall in Raleigh where shots were reportedly fired inside, where large crowds gather.

It makes me feel that nowhere is safe, so much to the point where my head is always on a swivel when I’m out in public.

That’s no way to live….and in the case of Lakiesha Sutton, that’s no way to die.


Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

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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