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Walking with purpose in the same direction

Ruby Baker – March 2, 2014: shot and killed in her home on Parker Avenue.

Bryant O’Neil Jacobs – April 30, 2016: shot outside a residence on McGlohon Street. He died six days later in an area hospital.

Lakiesha Sutton – Aug. 3, 2016: shot and killed in the parking lot of Murphy Express on Memorial Drive.

Keon Tyvelle Harrell – Sept. 5, 2016: shot and killed in the parking lot of McDonalds on Memorial Drive.

Reco Larone Lewis – June 23, 2018: shot and killed outside of an apartment at Kennedy Court.

Dwight Nathaniel Saunders – July 13, 2018: shot and killed while exiting a residence on Church Street.

Six murders over a span of a little more than four years. Six lives that ended in brutal fashion in the blink of an eye. Six families left grieving. A small town left puzzled and bewildered over a startling rise in violent crime.

Four of the previously mentioned murders remain unsolved (Baker, Jacobs, Harrell, and Lewis). The loved ones they left behind are perhaps more traumatized by that fact, not knowing who is responsible for pulling the trigger that ended their family member’s life. In an effort to gain some level of closure, those survivors deserve to have their questions answered….the biggest of which is why did it have to happen.

Deep inside my heart I believe there are people who possess information that could lead to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for Ahoskie’s unsolved murders. What I have trouble wrapping my head around is why they choose to keep that information to themselves. Do they fear for their lives if they share what they know to the local police? Or is it a case that they just don’t care?

Over the course of my newspaper career I’ve faced the grim task of reporting on murders, deadly fires, and fatal accidents. On each and every occasion my heart breaks for those who just lost a loved one to a tragic event, but I proceed with the task at hand because it’s part of my job.

Up until the murder of Mr. Saunders, I’ve never covered a murder where the victim was still at the scene. I arrived roughly 10 minutes after it reportedly occurred…watching, with mouth gaped open, as members of Hertford County EMS took turns performing CPR on the victim.

I took a photo of the Ahoskie Police sealing off the area with crime scene tape. In the background was the body of Mr. Saunders, covered by a white sheet.

So, why did I choose to publish that photo, as so many have angrily asked, especially on Facebook, since it appeared in our Saturday, July 14 edition? Am I a cold and insensitive person?

At the time it was published, no one had been formally charged in that case. My mind was numbed by the fact of Ahoskie having another senseless murder to deal with. My mind was filled with the names of Ruby Baker, Bryant Jacobs, Keon Harrell, and Reco Lewis. Four lives ended; four families crying out for answers. The Saunders family could have been the fifth family seeking justice.

The photo was not published in an effort to sell newspapers nor to disrespect the Saunders family, but rather for the shock and disbelief of this type of violent crime was happening again in this town. It was published in an effort to stir the minds and open the lips of those whom I believed had become too complacent, too immune to this string of homicides.

Based on the outrage, the photo did strike a nerve. For those it offended, we published an apology in our next edition. However, it did serve its intended purpose as people are now engaging in positive discussion, among themselves and with local law enforcement.

That fact was evident at this past Friday’s anti-violence march in Ahoskie. Families and friends of the latest two murder victims embraced each other and the police. Even I had a chance to meet the mother of Mr. Saunders face to face where we had an extremely reflective and healthy conversation.

We all have join hands and walk in the same direction with the same purpose if we’re to put an end to this senseless violence. That needs to begin immediately as to avoid another tragedy.

 

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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