'Our hearts are broken': Durham officials address wave of gun violence, crime throughout city

Friday, August 23, 2019
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Leaders discuss plan to curb Durham violence

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Durham officials held a news conference Thursday to address gun violence and crime throughout the city.

RELATED: Durham mayor calls 9-year-old boy's shooting death an 'unspeakable tragedy,' talks gun control

Durham Mayor Steve Schewel, Durham County Board of Commissioners Chair Wendy Jacobs, Durham Police Chief C.J. Davis, Durham County Sheriff Clarence Birkhead, Durham County District Attorney Satana Deberry and Matt Martin, U.S. Attorney for the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina were in attendance.

"While we mourn we must act," Schewel said.

County Commissioner Wendy Jacobs called gun violence a "public health issue."

RELATED: Durham police chief says city has a gang problem and lack of legislation on gun control hinders efforts

The news conference comes after the recent death of 9-year-old Zion Person, who was shot while on the way to get a snow cone with his family.

"We must remain laser focused identifying key persons associated with these acts, pose harsh sentences for those who repeatedly commit violent acts," Davis said.

The next night, 18-year-old Kylik Burnette was shot and killed inside a Durham apartment.

Davis said her team will be increasing visibility, reassigning resources, and partnering with Sheriff Clarence Birkhead to seize illegal guns.

"I want to send a clear message to these individuals who are committing these heinous acts: You will be identified. You will be apprehended, you will be brought to justice," Birkhead said.

And in a bold new move, U.S. Attorney Matt Martin said federal and state officials are working with DPD and bringing the FBI, Drug Enforcement Agency and Alcohol Tobacco Firearm Agents to Durham.

He delivered this message to every drug dealer and gang member in the Bull City:

"I just hope you hear very clearly ... your crime will find you out, and we will try our best to try you in federal, and that's a whole different ball game," he said.

RELATED: 'State of emergency in our city': Durham leaders call for action after 9-year-old killed in shooting