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CMPD increases presence at nightclubs after killings

By Joe Marusak and Steve Lyttle
jmarusak@charlotteobserver.com

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  • Help needed

    Police are asking for the public’s help in all of the slayings. Anyone with information can call detectives at 704-432-8477 or leave information with Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600.



Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said Friday they will work extra hours and increase their presence at recent trouble spots – nightclubs and prayer vigils – after a spate of seven unrelated killings.

“We will work diligently and do everything in our power to prevent gun violence,” Deputy Chief Kerr Putney said at a news conference.

The department, he said, will devote more officers everywhere crime has broken out. “Anywhere that we’re experiencing issues, we are going to be there,” he said. “You’ll see a lot of officers engaging the public.”

Putney also urged the public to report felons they see with a gun. Callers are eligible for $500 rewards.

On Thursday night, gunfire broke out at an anti-violence vigil in the city’s Villa Heights neighborhood.

Four people were injured, but police said none of the victims’ injuries are considered life-threatening. No arrests have been announced.

Mothers of Murdered Offspring sponsored the vigil, calling attention to the Aug. 29 death of Javon Booker. Police said Booker was fatally shot when he tried to rob a convenience store on Tom Hunter Road in north Charlotte.

Shortly after 10:30 p.m. Thursday, police were called by someone at the vigil, on Pinckney Avenue, who said a person pulled a gun and began firing at people.

When officers arrived, they found that most people had fled and there were no shooting victims. But within a short time, four victims had called 911 from a different location.

Putney said police were still gathering evidence and that nothing indicates the shootings were gang-related.

Judy Williams, co-founder of Mothers of Murdered Offspring, said the group has been criticized for holding a vigil for a robbery suspect. But she said the vigils are for the family members of all who’ve been killed.

“They don’t hurt any less because their loved one did something wrong,” Williams said Friday evening. “We’re not glorifying what he did. We’re there to support the family. Even though they did something wrong that cost them their life, they meant something to their family who loved them. They still hurt.”

Williams said the group will never hold another vigil without police being there.

“Any way we can partner to reduce violence, we’re all for it,” Lisa Crawford, the group’s administrator, said of police vowing to be at every vigil.

Putney said the department has increased its presence in problem areas in years past, including 2012, when Police Chief Rodney Monroe initiated a similar effort after a spate of four or five killings.

This year’s most recent homicide was that of an intruder who was shot when police said he and another person kicked in the door of a University City home Thursday evening. Jamal Antonio Haynes, 17, died Friday at Carolinas Medical Center. He was shot in a home on Century Oaks Lane, near where North Graham Street intersects Sugar Creek Road.

In other recent killings:

•  Dominick Eugene Alexander, 22, died en route to Carolinas Medical Center after being shot around 2 a.m. Tuesday at Club 124 Atando, on Atando Avenue.

A short time later, police said, another person arrived at the hospital with a gunshot wound that police said was not life-threatening. Police said they think the shootings were related to a narcotics-related dispute outside the club.

•  At 1:30 a.m. Sunday, police were summoned to the El Gavilan Club in the 3800 block of Driftwood Drive, off Central Avenue. The victim in that fatal shooting was identified as Jose Jesus Hernandez-Diaz, 26.

Detectives said another person was shot and suffered life-threatening injuries. They believe the shootings took place inside the club.

Investigators said this week they were trying to find a suspect who uses the aliases “Colocho” and “Douglas Ubaldo Valle Zuniga” in connection with the killing.

•  At around 12:05 a.m. Sunday, police said they were called to a home in the 9200 block of Trinity Road, off Beatties Ford Road in northwest Charlotte. Investigators found Earnest Sean Milton, 34, who had been shot and killed. Police have not said what led to the shooting.

On Tuesday, Dennis William Graham, 38, turned himself in at police headquarters after a warrant was announced for his arrest.

•  Around 10:30 p.m. Sunday, police began investigating the homicide of James David Lockhart, 32. His body was found in the 5400 block of Manning Road, in a north Charlotte neighborhood bounded by Nevin Road, North Graham Street and West Sugar Creek Road.

On Monday, police arrested Robert Martin, 27, Richard Payne, 24, and Moises Puente, 31, and charged them with Lockhart’s killing, robbery with a dangerous weapon and conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon.

Police said the four men knew each other and that Lockhart was shot during a drug deal. Investigators said Lockhart died at the scene.

•  On Aug. 29, Bennett Eugene Miller, 34, was shot in the parking lot of an apartment complex in Steele Creek as students were getting off a school bus nearby. It happened on Kings Ridge Road, near where South Boulevard meets Old Pineville Road.

Antonio Torez Cousart, 25, and Maurice Quema Wilson, 22, have been charged in Miller’s death. Detectives believe drugs were involved, Putney said.

Marusak: 704-987-3670; Twitter: @ jmarusak.
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