Durham mourns sudden death of popular activist

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Umar Muhammad had worked to turn his life around and help inspire others.

Members of a Durham community are saddened by the sudden death of Umar Muhammad this week. ABC 11 spoke with Muhammad's spiritual mother about the impact the 30-year-old Muhammad's death has on the community.

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"I don't know what we're are going ... how we are going to get through this," said Nia Wilson, executive director of Spirit House and close friend to Muhammad. "I know that we will get through this because God is good. But in this moment there are not many words to describe. I spoke to him just before the accident. He said, 'I will see you later, mom.' "

Muhammad was killed while he was riding his motorcycle near the intersection of South Alston Street and Massey Avenue when police say he was struck by a car driven by Rodney McLaurin.

Investigators say McLaurin failed to yield.

RELATED: Durham man charged in crash that kills motorcyclist

McLaurin is charged with misdemeanor death by motor vehicle and driving with a revoked license.

He is out of jail on bond.

ABC11 went by McLaurin's home but no one answered.

People who were close to Muhammad say the accident was senseless.

The crash abruptly cuts short the activism work Muhammad was doing in the community.



Following his release from prison for robbery, Muhammad aimed to turn his life around and be an example to others.

In 2014, he worked for Anita Earls, who is executive director for Southern Coalition for Social Justice. He led the group's efforts in community organizing, and establishing clinics to help get ex-offenders connected to resources and job opportunities.

"I believe that in the three and half years that Umar was with us he became, in many ways the heart and soul of our work." Earls said.

Work that was recognized by city leaders.

In tweets, council members Charlie Reece and Jillian Johnson expressed their shock and disappointment for the passing of a young man whose vision was to unite Durham.

"I just hope we can keep moving his vision forward and that people will stay committed," Wilson said.

Muhammad had just become a father to a 2-month old girl.

Funeral arrangements are still in the works.

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community servicetraffic fatalitiesmotorcycle accidentdurham county newsDurham
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