For nearly 30 years, the Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham has said aloud the names of every person killed in Durham the previous year. And they did again on Saturday, calling out the 38 names of people struck down in 2020.
The list of people grieving their loved ones’ violent deaths — last year, this year, several years ago — continues to grow, and the city continues to search for solutions.
“We can no longer do this by ourselves,” said the Rev. Annette Love, vigil and community minister for the Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham.
The annual service is usually held on a late winter evening inside a church, with candles lit for victims of violence. The coronavirus pandemic changed and delayed the observance this year. It was held outside on a crisp, sunny October morning in the parking lot of Elizabeth Street United Methodist Church just outside downtown. Instead of candles, each person’s name was printed on a sheet of paper, called out, and carried by another person to a table bearing a vase of white roses.
Family members of people who have been shot and killed in Durham shared their stories.
Michelle Hall said she has heard gunfire nearby before. But on the night her son was killed, she didn’t hear it. Tavares Hall, 34, was shot and killed on Oct. 18, 2018.
Hall was at her house with her son’s family, and he told her he was stopping to say hello to friends before coming over. But when he came over, it was to say goodbye.
Tavares Hall blew kisses to his family from a car. He had been shot and a friend was driving him to the hospital.
Michelle Hall followed behind them and waited for word at the hospital about her son.
“When I saw the chaplain, I knew my son’s fate,” she said.
No one has been charged in his killing, she said, though she believes she knows who did it.
Only God has helped her wake up each day and get up each day, Hall said, and “put this mask on that ‘I am OK.’”
Allen Jones is a funeral director and embalmer in Durham.
“Let me tell you what this violence looks like,” Jones told the few hundred people gathered.
On June 30, 2019, he got the call that his grandson, Tyrone D. Nelson Jr., had been killed. Days later, Jones was the one handling the funeral arrangements.
“I don’t know how many of you realize the severity of this violence,” Jones said.
The experience he shared was grim, and the language is graphic.
“I’m his granddad. I changed this boy’s diapers. ... I had to take my 18-year-old grandson who obviously was shot in the back of the head, and God gave me the strength, and I’m still pissed and mad about it,” Jones said.
“I had to take my grandbaby’s skull and glue it back together in order to put him so that his mama, my son and all could see him and have what we call a pleasant memory picture. But ain’t a damn thing pleasant about it, not at all,” he said.
Jones said that God has enabled him to bear the cross for those who need it, and he’s not going to give up.
“Get mad enough to help somebody. Get mad enough about this stuff that’s going on. Prayer is fine, but walk beside somebody,” he said.
Here are the names and ages of the 38 people in Durham whose lives were ended by violence in 2020:
▪ Ronald Callanan Jr., 44
▪ Dayshawn Montez Jones, 27
▪ Benjamin Keith Smith, 51
▪ Trevor VanDyke, 20
▪ Terry Bradshaw, 51
▪ Rebecca Baldwin, 46
▪ Kordell Tashaun Young, 23
▪ Daniel Pressley, 29
▪ Nathan Futrell, 42
▪ Jose Ivan Garcia Rodriguez, 31
▪ Russell James Dukes Jr., 28
▪ Roderic Alexander Rowland, 29
▪ James Peay, 25
▪ Phillip R. Jones Jr., 19
▪ Esahaq Msbah Saleh Fadhal, 17
▪ Terrell Jaron Calloway, 33
▪ Paulette Thorpe, 74
▪ Tyvien Mclean, 12
▪ Damario Isiah Poole, 31
▪ Joshua Lindsey, 21
▪ Reginald Peewee Bowling, 48
▪ Syncere Burrell, 18
▪ Michael Harris, 15
▪ Amon Jermall Shaw, 20
▪ Otha Ray Watson, 26
▪ Malik Rashaun Johnson, 19
▪ Johnathon Christopher Miller III, 23
▪ Tama Ann Perry, 60
▪ Ka’Mauria McDonald, 16 months
▪ Anthony Adams, 15
▪ Keith Ashanti Kennedy, 46
▪ Trayvion Lamar Amerson, 23
▪ Demeico Sowell Jr., 20
▪ Jelani Whittington, 37
▪ Cedric Deon Bowers, 42
▪ Leondras Anthony Malone, 39
▪ Alexander Keith Hairston, 20
▪ Jessica Cortez Luna, 27
As of Oct. 9, there have been 39 criminal homicides in Durham so far in 2021, according to the Durham Police Department.