WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Thomas James Brown – nicknamed Pork Chop – wasn’t perfect, but he was trying to be.
The 27-year-old Winston-Salem man, who became the city’s first homicide victim in 2019, had gotten out of Piedmont Correctional Institution in September 2018.
When he got out, his family and friends say he was a changed man.
“He was the son that I wanted him to be,” said Brown’s mother, Annie Stephens.
Brown was sentenced in part because of habitual misdemeanor assault. His mother says he would often fight, but his violent past was behind him.
“He made it better for his mom, he made it better for his brothers and sisters to show them that you can change your life,” Stephens said.
But, on Monday night, violence found him.
“He left out the door happy, joyful like normal,” Stephens said, describing him walking out of a family friend’s house on his way home.
Moments later, at about 8:15 p.m., his family heard a series of gunshots. They rushed outside to find him in the middle of North Jackson Avenue.
“Telling him, ‘please breathe, please breathe,’ and everybody was saying his heart was beating,” Stephens said.
Brown’s younger brother was holding his side, trying to stop the bleeding as police drove to the scene.
“I said, ‘my child’s the one laying down there in the street,’ and I seen them trying to revive him, they kept pushing him on the chest and stuff,” Stephens said.
Police say Brown was pronounced dead at the scene.
“They took my son away from me,” Stephens said, of his killer(s).
After spending more than two years in jail for settling disputes with his fists, his life ended at a time where many have put the fists away in favor of firearms.
“He had not done [anything] for them to have to kill him. All these people out here just shooting people just to be shooting them. Y’all are wrong,” Stephens said.
Police say they have no suspects in the killing and are hopeful any potential witnesses will come forward with information.
“Y’all out here killing people for no reason,” Stephens said. “You’re wrong, because your day is coming.”