Andrea Long plans to bury her two teenage sons side by side, the way they died on a west Charlotte street corner in a shooting police say stemmed from a long-standing feud.
Josh Davis, 17, and Terry Long, 18, died under an oak tree off West Boulevard in a crime that moved residents to help find the suspect.
Montrez Benjamin Williams, 17, is charged with fatally shooting the teens – a year after Mecklenburg prosecutors let him plead guilty to reduced charges in an armed robbery case.
The teens' mother said she heard from police that her older son has been the target of the gunfire about 10:30 p.m. Monday, and that her younger son died while trying to shield his brother.
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“It's just too much,” Long said, shaking her head and receiving friends and family in her home Tuesday morning. “It's a senseless killing.”
Her sons' deaths are the latest in a series of shootings involving teens that has stirred debate about youth violence and already drawn attention from the city's new police chief, Rodney Monroe. Five other teens ages 18 and younger have been killed in Charlotte shootings so far this year.
“We're talking about some real serious social issues that I don't think law enforcement truly can influence,” Monroe said. “It's a community problem.”
Monday's shooting came during an argument between groups of young people in the Arbor Glen neighborhood.
Terry Long and Williams were childhood friends until junior high school when they had an argument over a girl, relatives said.
Problems between them escalated over the years, Andrea Long said. Her son had recently beaten Williams in a fistfight in front of his friends, she said, and he'd been avoiding Williams since.
Police couldn't confirm the fistfight or say whether the victims were armed Monday. They also weren't sure how many people might have been involved when multiple shots were fired in a neighborhood once home to Dalton Village, one of Charlotte's most dangerous public housing complexes. The neighborhood has recently been transformed into a safer, more attractive community.
Police said there is no indication the shooting was gang-related. But Andrea Long said both of her sons had previously fallen into “bad company.”
Both victims and the suspect lived with relatives in Arbor Glen.
Late Monday, Terry Long had returned from work at Sonic and was on his way to a convenience store with his brother when the two were shot, their mother said.
Curtis Ford, who lives across the street, was awakened by the commotion.
“Pow. Pow. Pow. And then you heard a big noise – ‘boom!'” he said. “I laid down on the floor until police got here.”
Moments later, the teens' mother got a call from a friend at the scene, who told her that her sons were dead.
“I didn't believe it,” she said, tearing up.
Residents flooded to the scene and gave police information that Chief Monroe said led police to issue warrants for the arrest of Williams, who turned himself in Tuesday morning.
“That community rallied last night because of their anger and because of the senselessness,” said Monroe, who was at the scene Monday and later praised residents for getting involved.
In March 2007, Williams was charged with armed robbery after a man told police that Williams had pointed a handgun at him, struck him in the face with the gun, then stole his motorcycle.
Mecklenburg prosecutors later dropped the armed robbery charge and allowed Williams to plead guilty to simple assault and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. Williams, who was 16 at the time he was charged, was sentenced to 75 days in jail.
Deputy District Attorney Bart Menser declined to discuss that case Tuesday, saying he did not want to adversely impact Williams' right to a fair trial on the murder charges.
Chief Monroe says the public deserves some explanation. “How can people get away with that answer?” he said of prosecutors' decision not to discuss the previous case.
Andrea Long says she has struggled to keep her boys from the lure of the streets, and says both were making strides in improving their lives.
Josh had spent time at Stonewall Jackson, a state-operated youth development center in Concord, where he earned a high school diploma. She said she put him there after he stopped listening to his parents and began hanging around with gang members and wearing red, a color associated with a gang called the Bloods.
He recently went to work for a family friend repairing appliances, his mother said, and had always been a humble, fun-loving kid.
Long's older son, Terry, was a jokester and wanna-be rapper, coming up with his own songs, which once won him a $100 prize, his mother said. He also liked to oil paint, and one piece – a mountain scene with waterfalls – hangs on the wall of his mother's bathroom.
He, too, had run into trouble.
Last year he was charged with trespassing at a public library on North Tryon Street, and he was recently cited for blocking traffic while flashing gang symbols. Buried in his court files was a note from his mom begging the judge to leave her son in jail a few days to teach him a lesson.
“Dear Judge, I want you to please make Terry Long do something with his life…Terry's got a lot to offer this world. But he has chosen a bad path…I have prayed for him, held his hand….Make him work and not be another black man who ends up in the system. Please help me.”
Staff writers Gary L. Wright and Cleve R. Wootson Jr., and researchers Sara Klemmer and Maria Wygand contributed.