A message of sorrow

From mourners at the funeral of two slain teenage brothers to the chief of police, Charlotteans on Monday vowed to combat the growing problem of teen violence.

“It's just getting out of hand with the crime, especially with young people,” said Anetra Thompson, 31, one of about 500 people who attended the funeral of Terry Long, 18, and Joshua Davis, 17. The brothers were shot and killed on a west Charlotte street last week.

“If this doesn't send a message to the community,” Thompson said, “I don't know what will.”

Three weeks into his job, Chief Rodney Monroe praised the teens' mother, who has called for cooperation among residents and police.

“Everybody's tired of seeing this,” Monroe said. “We get very concerned when it reaches a tragic level such as the loss of two victims. It has to make us want more. … Not just talk about more, but want to do more.”

And the clergyman who eulogized the brothers Monday delivered a challenge during his sermon.

“There are many people in here whose lifestyle needs to change,” said the Rev. Gregory Moss, the pastor of St. Paul Baptist Church. “Don't let this moment pass. Take the time to realize what direction your life is headed …

“If you've got to prove your manhood or your womanhood by using a firearm,” Moss proclaimed to applause, “you've got a problem.”

The brothers died the night of June 30, shot on the street near their home. Police say the two had resumed a longstanding argument with another youth about a girl. Their mother has said police told her Long was the target of the gunfire, and Davis died trying to protect him.

Police have charged Montrez Benjamin Williams, 17, with two counts of murder. He's being held without bond in the Mecklenburg County jail.

A year ago, Mecklenburg prosecutors allowed Williams to plead guilty to reduced charges in an armed robbery and misdemeanor assault case. He was sentenced to 75 days in jail.

District Attorney Peter Gilchrist has repeatedly refused to discuss why he agreed to the plea deal, even after Monroe questioned his office for its silence.

“This office has a responsibility to make sure the defendant gets a fair trial,” Gilchrist said Monday. “Making comments about any defendant who has pending charges concerning the facts of the case, or any other case, is inappropriate.”

During the funeral, the teens' brother, John Davis – Joshua Davis' twin – tried to console their mother, Andrea Long. She wailed with grief during the service.

John Davis mentioned what police had told Long, that Joshua Davis died trying to shield his older brother from gunfire.

“Mama, don't think it was your fault, 'cause you raised us right,” John Davis said from the rostrum. “Josh had a chance to run away. But even though Terry was gone, he stayed with him.”

Moss urged the mourners to do what the brothers did, what their family is trying to do: Stay together and treat each other with compassion.

Monroe said the community will have to do the same to fight the violence.

“They want something done about it. But they will soon realize that the power to do something about this crime rests with them,” he said. “They need to send a message that this is not acceptable.” Staff writers Victoria Cherrie and Gary Wright contributed.