Winston-Salem neighborhood seeing increase in gun violence

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- In a one-week period, the neighborhoods inside the boundaries of the Winston-Salem Police Department's beat 222 have seen a 19-year-old shot dead, a 79-year-old shot in the face, Kalvin Michael Smith critically injured in a shooting, and two men shot early Monday morning.

“That’s not the way to live in this world,” said 89-year-old Mattie Young, widely known as the “Mayor of Cleveland Avenue,” which is inside beat 222. “You got to live and let live.”

On Monday, March 27, 19-year-old Ladawn Morgan was shot outside a home on Rich Avenue and later died. In the same shooting, a bullet ricocheted and fragments struck 79-year-old Alexander Barber in the face as he sat – reading the Bible – in his driveway.

“I’ve been fighting this battle for over 30 some-odd years,” Young said. “It seems like it’s getting worse and not better.”

The following Friday, March 31, Smith was critically injured in a shooting on North Jackson Avenue. Smith had been freed from prison in November 2016.

“I’m just fed up with the whole situation, but I can’t do it all by myself,” Young said, of her fight to stop violence and crime in her neighborhood.

Shortly before 5:30 Monday morning, two men were shot in the 1100 block of East 17th Street, feet from Young’s home. One of the men was shot three times in the stomach, but both are expected to recover.

“Most of these little old boys walking around here, that’s why their pants are down so low, they got guns in their pocket,” Young said. “[They are] packing. The ones 13, 14 years old, packing guns.”

Beat 222 is bordered by U.S. 311 to the south and east, U.S. 52 to the west and stretches north to the area of Bethlehem Lane and East 18th Street.

“It’s getting warm, and the children [going to] be out of school after a while, and somebody’s kid is [going to] get killed,” Young fears.

As of April 2, 2017, there have been 18 aggravated assaults with firearms within beat 222. In the same time period in 2016, there were four.

“I don’t want to see these kids get [shot] down like dogs,” Young said.

Although drugs and gangs are a driving force behind some of the shootings, Young is in agreement with Winston-Salem police administrators that there are other factors.

“If they punch them in the face, the rest of them [aren’t going to] look at him and say they bad,” Young said, speaking to why people choose not to settle disputes with their fists. “So, if they shoot somebody, he bad, you know, we [aren’t going to] mess with him.”