LAURINBURG — The Laurinburg Police Department has for the first time employed its newly formed gang unit to lead investigations into last week’s killing of a 21-year-old and two shootings on the day of his funeral that left a pregnant 19-year-old in critical condition.
“We will not surrender our city,” Police Chief Darwin Williams said Wednesday. “Our job is to defend our city to the best of our ability and we are going to do that.”
Brittany Colson, 19, of Rockingham, remains in critical condition at an undisclosed hospital after being struck in the head Tuesday with a bullet that entered the 2002 white Buick in which she was riding with 21-year-old Tyesha Legget and 18-year-old Arctral Gibson, both of Laurinburg. Colson is 12 weeks pregnant.
Police have not yet charged anyone in that shooting and are still seeking a Laurinburg teenager who has been charged with attempted murder in a separate incident that day.
According to Williams, shots were fired into the Buick when it pulled up to the intersection of Wagram and Samoa streets at about 7 p.m. None of the other passengers were injured.
Williams and Assistant Police Chief Cliff Sessoms suspect the shooting was connected to another on Oct. 30 that left Byron Antonio Covington, 24, lying dead in the backyard of a Washington Street home. Kamel Detroy Stewart, 21, who has been charged with murder in that case, is the son of Calvin Stewart, who owns the Buick in which Colson was riding. Colson was shot six hours after Covington’s funeral.
As officers were investigating the Wagram Street shooting, Sessoms said, shots were fired into a home at 1104 Anne St., about a block away from the intersection. Police have charged Calvin Stewart, the 17-year-old son of the Calvin Stewart who owns the vehicle and the brother of Kamel Stewart, who is being held in the Scotland County jail without bond for Covington’s murder, with attempted murder and shooting into an occupied dwelling.
Police are still seeking the teenager.
Investigators think Stewart was aiming at 29-year-old Adrian Bennett, whom he believed to be involved in the earlier crime. Also in the home were Deaundra Bethea, 24, Dominique Bennett, 17, an infant girl and a 1-year-old boy, none of whom were injured.
Sessoms said investigators are following up on leads to determine who shot into the Buick.
Anyone with information is urged to contact the Laurinburg Police Department at 910-276-3211. Callers can remain anonymous.
Williams said the four-officer gang unit, which he implemented shortly after being sworn in on Aug. 1, would now be fully staffed and “active and aggressive.”
“I’m highly upset as the chief of police,” Williams said. “We will not tolerate this in Laurinburg. Whether it’s one sector of this city or the other, when there is violence in this city it reflects on the whole city.
“It’s our image we’re talking about. We’re going to pursue these guys. We’re going to pursue these shooters, and once we catch them, we’re going to bring them to justice.”
The shootings, according to Williams, are a symptom of the city’s escalating gang problem, fueled by social networking and the upcoming generation’s need to seek “five minutes of fame” with posts that incite further violence.
“Its a big difference then when you have a break-in,” he said. “You get there, there are some tangible things there — fingerprints, the subject can leave DNA behind, that type of deal. But with Facebook and the Internet, folks can hide behind a screen name and create arguments and fights. This younger generation, they can’t deal with communicating to resolve their issues. They resort to guns and violence.”
Williams said the gang unit will be monitoring social networks for clues of outbreaks of violence and be looking for ways to charge online instigators. He also said the team would be working with the District Attorneys office and would pursue federal charges for those found to be possessing weapons illegally.
“This is not just a police issue. This is a community issue,” he said. “We need the community. It’s a parenting issue. Folks have to take responsibility for raising their kids the right way. We deal with crime. We find ourselves doing it all, from preaching to teaching to parenting. These parents need to hold themselves accountable.
“Enough is enough.”
Abbi Overfelt works for Civitas Media as editor of The Laurinburg Exchange. Rachel McAuley, a staff writer for The Laurinburg Exchange, contributed to this story.