Homeless man stabbed to death in Raleigh

March 7, 2011 4:04:49 PM PST
Police say a homeless man stabbed to death in Raleigh Sunday knew his attacker.

The attack happened Sunday morning as church volunteers where handing out coffee to the homeless.

Police say 52-year-old Eric Lee Jackson was stabbed following an argument with 62-year-old Leonard Coleman, as he waited in line for a free breakfast.

Witnesses said the men fought briefly after Jackson was stabbed, but volunteers were able to detain Coleman with the knife until police arrived.

Jackson later died at WakeMed Hospital. Coleman is being held without bond and is due back in court later this month.

Police say the crime was not random because the men knew each other. However, the incident is raising questions about safety in Moore Square and downtown Raleigh.

"With the growth of this city, we do have more problems with our transient population," Commander Kevin Craghead, Raleigh Police Department, said.

Craghead is the downtown district commander and says while more people do mean more transients, and more transients can mean more troubles, the incident was isolated.

"There was nothing that could have prevented this," Craghead explained. "This became personal. It was not a random act, and two gentlemen got in a confrontation."

People who work near Moore Square say they feel safe.

"I've been here six years, and this is the first time anything has happened so close to our doorstep," Tir Na Nog Owner Peter Pagano said.

Parents who take their children to the children's museum also say they feel safe.

"I think they have to live somewhere," parent Rachel Walker said. "Let's be realistic about it. Unless they're going to have more city shelters, you're going to have homeless in the parks."

And as for the park being next door to the museum, Walker says she visits in the daytime, so it doesn't bother her.

Over the next few years, things may change. The Salvation Army is moving its shelter from downtown to Capitol Blvd., and the City is redesigning Moore Square.

However, Raleigh's mayor cautions people not to expect homeless people to disappear after it's all said and done.

"We want to make it a very family friendly place where lots of folks will go, but also one that can look after some of our society's less fortunate people," Mayor Charles Meeker said.

Meeker thinks the two ideas are compatible if Moore Square is designed correctly. "You can have a place where people can get a free lunch on Saturday, but also have gardens [and] a place where kids can go too."

The murder is Raleigh's first of the year and that's something police consider a feather in the city's cap.

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