2011 Year in Review: Homicides in Durham

Twenty seven people were murdered in Durham in 2011. A firearm was used in 22 – or 81 percent – of the killings.

It was also a year marked by a 3 percent increase in violent crime in Durham when, according to preliminary FBI semiannual statistics for 2011, the number of reported violent crimes in the U.S. was declining.

And within the first eight days of 2012, three people were fatally shot in Durham.

"This is a very disturbing trend that we, as a community, should not and cannot accept,” Mayor Bill Bell said during a press conference Friday.

Flanked by Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez and about 15 city and county officials in the Durham County Administration Building, Bell announced strategies to reduce gun violence in Durham. They include, among other steps, hefty bails and working to change legislation to ratchet up penalties for gun crimes.

As part of my short documentary film, I’ve been reviewing data related to Durham homicides. Going into 2011, the three-year (2008-2010) average for homicides was 23. Of the 27 homicides in 2011, 11 victims' cases remain open and 13 have been cleared by arrest. Three victims' cases are classified as inactive or not active due to the death of the offender.

I’ve compiled a year-in-review snapshot, which I offer to raise awareness with the hope that it will spark meaningful conversations (even just one) about what can be done to address and mitigate gun violence. With 27 people killed, hundreds of friends and family members are forever changed by the loss.

The following charts and analysis of Durham homicides in 2011 were created by leanoraminai.com using data from the Durham Police Department and other reports. 

Homicides by Month in 2011

Case Status 


Method of Homicides


Race of Victims


Race of Offenders


Gender of Victims


Gender of Offenders


Age of Victims and Offenders

Anyone with information about the unsolved homicide cases from 2011, or other violent crimes, is asked to call Durham CrimeStoppers at (919) 683-1200. CrimeStoppers offers anonymity and cash rewards for information leading to the arrest and indictment of felony crime offenders.

Durham Gospel Choir Brings Healing at the Holidays

Marlon E. West directs the 100 Men In Black Male Chorus on Dec. 13. Photo by Leanora Minai.As I’ve learned from parents who’ve lost children to homicide, there’s never really any closure, and the holidays can be especially difficult without others who understand the grief.

Last week, a local chapter of the support group, Parents of Murdered Children, hosted a remembrance dinner to support and comfort families coping with loss.

Many brought photographs of loved ones lost to homicide, placing them on a table at the front of a room inside the main Durham County Library.

There was the picture of Luciano Alejandro Cabrera, 21, killed earlier this year. In a framed photo near his, Willis Yates, 33, smiled with his daughter. He was shot in a home invasion. And there was the photo of Thomas Spruill, 25, wearing a Yankees cap. He was shot in a car.

The dinner on Dec. 13 featured gospel music (video below) by Durham’s 100 Men In Black Male Chorus under the direction of Marlon E. West.

“We are here tonight on the basis of everyone who has lost a loved one,” West said. “Our hearts and our prayers go out. We know that there’s healing in God, and the music that we sing tonight, we pray that you’ll find healing in that music.”

This video outtake features testimonials from several parents during a song performed by Semaj Munford, 10, a member of the chorus.

‘War Toy’ Swap Yields Lessons for Kids and Parents

Justice Drayton Collins,11, hands his toy gun to Tatiana DeBerry, Jordan High School student, during the “Peace Toys for War Toys” swap Dec. 1 in Durham. Photo by Leanora Minai.Justice Drayton Collins stood before a long table stacked with stuffed animals, puzzles, and board games. He picked up a new game in one hand, and in the other hand held tight to his tattered toy western gun with a silver muzzle and white plastic handle.

“Should I get the checkers, chess and tic-tac-toe all in one, or the amplifier and microphone,” he asked a friend standing nearby.

Justice, 11, then handed over the old toy gun, swapping it for the new amplifier and microphone. 

That exchange was just what organizers of “Peace Toys for War Toys” hoped would happen Thursday night in the Community Family Life and Recreation Center at Lyon Park in Durham.

“Many kids are very willing to get rid of their toy guns and knives and come in and get a brand new toy,” said Gail Neely, assistant director of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence, which hosted the Dec. 1 event. “Hopefully, they’ll start playing, and in turn, learn to be more cooperative in the world and have a more peaceful existence than bang, bang shoot ‘em up, which is what a lot of kids are living with in reality.” 

North Carolinians Against Gun Violence hosted the toy exchange, which drew 150 parents and children. Photo by Leanora Minai.In its eighth year in Durham, the event invites children to exchange their “war toys” for free “peace toys” that encourage creative, nonviolent behavior and activities, Neely said. About 150 parents and children gathered for the exchange, which included donated pizza and performances by Unleashed Dance Organization from Durham Technical Community College. Some families brought cans of food for the exchange that also drew volunteers from the city and county.

“Hi, everybody!” Tatiana DeBerry, Jordan High School student and member of the Durham Youth Commission, exclaimed as the first throng of children approached the tables to pick a toy.Tatiana DeBerry hands Gap Barbie to Elise Lawrence, 3. Photo by Leanora Minai.

Jenny Uba, 10, found herself torn over the offerings. She couldn’t decide between a diary with a heart-shaped lock and a star-shaped wristwatch.

“You can write in it, all the thoughts that you feel,” said DeBerry, who wore a Santa hat.

Jenny, whose mother brought canned food to donate, picked the watch.

“I think it will help me know what time it is,” Jenny said.

Neely said the exchange educates parents on the impact toys have on teaching children about violence and ways to resolve conflict.

“It’s more for the parents to get them thinking about what they want the child to learn when they’re giving that gift or buying a toy for their own child,” she said.  “The toy is a learning tool.”

VIDEO: Motorcycle Clubs Deliver ‘Gifts of Kindness’ to Children Shot in Durham Drive-By

Wearing a black motorcycle jacket emblazoned with “Live Free Ride Hard,” Rodney Long rolled down Fidelity Drive today on a gold Kawasaki Ninja.

Dozens of motorcycles followed behind him, filling the street with the thunderous roar of engines as they approached their destination. They arrived with toys, clothes and cash for two children injured Oct. 23 in a drive-by shooting in Durham. Aunehstii Hagans, 1, and Anaryiion Hagans, 3, were grazed by stray bullets that penetrated their home on a Sunday afternoon as their mother prepared dinner. Three men have been charged in connection with the shooting that injured them.

“I saw it on the news and immediately started thinking, ‘what can I do?’ ” said Long, a computer network engineer and founding president of Evolution Motorcycle Club in Raleigh. “There are so many things we can do in our community. Sometimes, the smallest little act can turn into something bigger.”

Long used the phone and Facebook to mobilize motorcyclists from as far away as Charlotte for today’sAnaryiion Hagans, 3, left, and Aunehstii Hagans, 1, play with toys donated by 12 motorcycle clubs as part of a benefit led by Evolution Motorcycle Club in Raleigh. Photo by Leanora Minai. “Random Act of Kindness Ride.” 

“No child should feel unsafe in their home,” the club’s Facebook post said. “… Let’s come together as a community and bring gifts of kindness to these children.”

More than 50 motorcyclists from 12 clubs delivered presents to the children, their mother, Dominique Hagans, and grandmother, Judy Leach, at their home in Durham. Brought to tears, Mrs. Leach and Ms. Hagans thanked the crowd. “Not everybody’s bad,” Mrs. Leach said.

Davontay “P-Nut” Rushing, president of Kingz & Queenz Riderz, rode his red Honda 171 miles from Charlotte to participate in the ride. “I’m always for the kids,” he said. “I’m a rider. I don’t care where it’s at. I’m going.”

Gunshot Victim at Age 1

Aunehstii Hagans, 1, and brother, Anaryiion, 3, were grazed by bullets that entered their North Driver Street home. Photo by Leanora Minai.

In her North Driver Street home, Dominique Hagans stuffed a roasting chicken to go along with the biscuits, cabbage and macaroni and cheese for Sunday dinner.

“Before I could get to the cabbage, that’s when I heard the gunshots,” said Hagans, 22.

Hagans ran to check on her children and found them in the living room. Stray bullets, fired from a passing car, had grazed her 1-year-old daughter, Aunehstii, and 3-year-old son, Anaryiion. 

Aunehstii was on the floor.

“She was in a puddle of blood,” Hagans said. “I just started panicking and crying.”

The children were treated and released from Duke University Hospital on Oct. 24, a day after the 1 p.m. drive-by shooting in the 200 block of North Driver Street in Durham. A man outside also was injured in the shooting.

According to witness reports, the shots may have been fired from a blue, four-door vehicle with tinted windows.

One bullet penetrated the siding on the front of the home; another bullet went through the front door. Investigators with the Durham Police Department are asking for the public’s help in identifying the people responsible, and Durham CrimeStoppers is offering a reward for tips leading to an arrest.

“We are asking members of the community to call us with any information they might have about this incident,” said Deputy Chief S.M. Mihaich. “We take any case involving children very seriously, and our officers and investigators have been speaking with residents of this neighborhood about this case.”

Hagans said she does not know who fired the bullets but has this message for whoever did:

“I hope you feel like I feel. I hope you turn yourself in because you hurt somebody else’s kids. I hope you learn from your actions. I’m not mad with you. I just feel like you should have thought first before you did what you did. They’re babies. They didn’t deserve to be hurt the way you hurt them.”

Slideshow: Police, Volunteers Canvass for Tips

Anyone with information about the North Driver Street shooting is asked to call Durham Police Investigator Cristaldi at (919) 560-4281, ext. 29123 or CrimeStoppers at (919) 683-1200. CrimeStoppers pays cash rewards for information leading to arrests in felony cases and callers never have to identify themselves.