DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Six young people were shot Monday morning and involved in a car crash in Durham, the latest in a rash of violent gun-related crimes that have unsettled Durham.
"There is no room in our city for this type of violence...and lives will forever be changed," Durham Police Chief said at an afternoon media briefing. "You must put the guns down. I beg you to think about what you are doing."
The shooting happened around 3 a.m. on Mathison and Eugene streets south of Durham Freeway and about a block away from Burton Elementary School.
Police arrived in the area to find a black Hyundai SUV crashed into a utility pole. Police originally said two males in the car were dead; 3 juvenile females and 1 juvenile male were taken to the hospital.
Police later clarified that the dead were a 19-year-old boy and a 15-year-old girl.
One of the juveniles is in critical condition, Andrews said.
"As a mother, I am deeply troubled by this today," Andrews said as her eyes became watery. "If I seem emotional, it's because I am. It can happen to any one of you."
Initial reports from Durham Police Department suggested that all six victims were younger than 18. However, the department clarified at 7:45 a.m. that one of the men who died was 19 and the age of the other person who died is not yet known.
The four people injured in the shooting were all younger than 18.
This was not a random incident, Andrews said.
Burton Elementary School switched to remote learning Monday because of the shooting investigation.
"Due to a police investigation that has closed roads near Burton Magnet Elementary School, it will not be possible to hold in-person classes there today. Burton will shift to remote learning for Monday, Dec. 13. Students from McDougald Terrace and the surrounding area who attend other schools may experience delays arriving at school due to buses being rerouted," Durham Public Schools said in a written statement.
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Andrews said her officers continue to investigate what happened, and she had a message for the shooter or shooters.
"You are meant to do more than what you are doing right now," Andrews said. "And what has happened today cannot be undone. We have got to start thinking before picking the guns up. I am outraged, I am saddened ... we are better than this. You are better than this. Put the guns down."
Durham County Sheriff Clarence Birkhead said we are "losing our children."
Birkhead said he was losing sleep over the issue of gang activity and gun violence in Durham County.
"How many more of our young people are we going to lose to the streets?" Birkhead said. "We are going to seek you out, apprehend you, and hold you accountable," he warned those who instigate violence.
City officials as well as people in the community also reacted with sadness and exasperation as violence continues to plague the Bull City.
Homicides in Durham are up 58% from January through September compared to the previous year.
Newly elected Mayor Elaine O'Neal noted that the deadly incident took place one week after her swearing-in ceremony.
"Prayers alone will not solve this problem," O'Neal said. "Each death robs our community of a brilliant mind that can help us solve some of our city's most pressing challenges. The Bull City is better than this. And we cannot rest until every street, block, neighborhood, and ZIP Code across this city is safe."
O'Neal asked Durham residents to commit to two years of community service, volunteering for 2.5 to 5 hours a week "outside of their normal circle."
"Law enforcement and government cannot tackle this issue alone," she said. "We will need you, every member of this community to join us in this fight to save lives. Parents must talk to their children about positive conflict resolution."
Community activist Ashley Canady said some of those involved in this latest deadly shooting lives or hung out at McDougald Terrace.
WATCH: Durham activists, residents react with anguish, sadness to violence
"It's heartbreaking because, at the end of the day, we've lost some babies who've lost children," Canady said. "It's right before the holidays, somebody is about to have to bury their child, that grandchild. Kids are fighting for their life and enough is enough."
People gathered near the site of the shooting as police continued to investigate into the afternoon.
"We're we are here just gathering information just trying to see if we can go about and just try to stop any retaliations or either in the future violent acts that might transpire from the situation that happened earlier this morning, late last night," said David Johnson of Bull City United, a community group working to curb gun violence.
Johnson said many factors are at play.
"Just people not having the ability to go out and do the normal things that they usually do," Johnson said. "Organizations not able to come out and interact with the teens or with the younger, the younger people and to try to give them activities and things like that to do. I feel like COVID plays a part in just mentally what's going on and affecting people."
On Monday evening, activists, pastors, and other community leaders joined area residents and others at the intersection where the SUV was found crashed.
They prayed, held an emotional vigil and passionately discussed meaningful ways to make a dent in the cycle of violence that has gripped large swaths of Durham.
"We keep hollering enough is enough every day, but I'm tired of people showing up when these cameras show up and then nobody doing nothing," Canady said at the gathering. "How many of our babies do we have to put on T-shirts before it stops? Everybody wants to keep throwing money. Money ain't solving it.
"We have to get boots on the ground," Canady said. "I'm looking at every face out here today, and a lot of the faces I'm seeing today show up and then we never see them again."
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Tamario Howze, a pastor at AME Zion Church, said he started calling people on his way to work to get them to gather and come organize.
"People who weren't usually tired is tired now, like me," Howze said "I have a daughter. Every day I wake up, someone is getting shot or killed. I just reached out to one person and it became a domino effect. I'm willing to do whatever.
"I just feel like now I have to do more," he added.
Elijah Pryor told those gathered his daughter was one of the victims found in the crashed SUV.
"I've been in these streets a long time," Pryor said. "I've seen a lot of kids die and I'm tired. I don't want no more of this. This is not what's happening."
Pryor became more animated as he spoke, the frustration clear in his voice.
"I don't want any of this we shall overcome, we haven't already overcome," he said. "We're just turning our eye on what we don't understand. The youth and rather than understand you shy away from them.
Y'all need to do something now!" he implored those gathered.
Howze said he is working to do something.
"I'm out here to work, I'm out here to continue to figure out different strategies in order to help some of these kids that are out here in this environment led to doing some of the things they are doing," Howze said.
Some of the strategies proposed included using PPP bound for churches and redirecting it into the community. Pastors also exchanged business cards in an effort to ensure that some of the networking done Monday night actually sticks.
Finally, and something Chief Andrews is well aware of, focusing on pay and fixing the staffing gap at Durham Police Department would be a step in the right direction.
Durham Mayor Pro Tem Mark Anthony Middleton said this is an all-hands-on-deck situation but he said he believes there is a new spirit of resolve in the Bull City.
"Look, what else can we do now except be together, except hold one another and pray," Middleton said. "Listen, these are babies, juveniles are babies, many of these victims can't vote, they can't drive, they can't join the military, these are our children.
"If there were one particular piece of legislation I could vote on or one particular ordinance or if the mayor could declare something, we would've done it," he added.