Grieving Durham mom's message to young men: 'Put the guns down'

Anthony Wilson Image
Tuesday, June 30, 2020
Grieving Durham mom's message to young men: 'Put the guns down'
Grieving Durham mom's message to young men: 'Put the guns down'

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- The first media reports about the murder of a 19-year-old man on Father's Day in Durham appeared with sadly familiar video of flashing blue lights and police working the scene for clues.

The victim's mother, Yolanda Murray-Barkley, is still grief-stricken weeks later and after agreeing to an interview, she asked ABC11 to accompany her to the gravesite of her son, Phillip Jones.

"I just planned my mother's funeral. Now I had to plan my son's funeral," Murray-Barkley said, as she faced their side-by-side headstones. "And I'm still trying to process it all myself. He was so easily influenced by others who he thought was cool. And I constantly told him, being cool is not going out here, doing all these bad things. Being cool is being able to say no."

She told us she tried to keep her son out of trouble, even sent him to a group home at one point.

"Because he was affiliated, he was trying to get out, with the Crips. And I let them know at the funeral, don't mistake that for more than what it is. Because his favorite color was blue long before he even knew these people," she said.

Murray-Barkley said when she was growing up in the McDougald Terrace community, the neighbors could leave their doors unlocked and children knew misdeeds would be handled, first by observant adults who were not relatives but reported any transgressions to a child's parents. Serious beefs were resolved man to man, without weapons.

"Because back in the day, if you had a dispute you duked it out," she said. "But you lived to see another day. Picking up a gun is the coward's way out."

But this time, an Instagram beef cost her son his life. She said someone affiliated with a gang killed him while he sat outside his sister's apartment, talking on the phone.

Grieving mother Yolanda Murray-Barkley issues plea for violence to end.

"He wasn't armed, or anything like that. But apparently somebody told them where he was, and they came," Murray-Barkley said. "I heard that words were exchanged, and then they just pulled out a gun."

She's aware of the recent media coverage of Black men killed while in police custody, or by self-styled neighborhood enforcers.

"But it seems it only matters if they're killed by a police officer or a White person. He didn't get killed by any of those," she said. "He got killed by another Black person, so why doesn't any of that matter?"

As she said at a memorial for Jones, "my son matters."

Now she's calling for those who want funds redirected from traditional policing to help keep young men like her son out of harm's way and bad influences.

"If you're going to fund them, fund programs where they can help these youth out here," she said.

Murray-Barkley also said something should be done to make it harder for immature people to get guns.

"Just like there's an age limit on obtaining alcohol, there should be an age limit on obtaining a firearm, you know?"

She also said she hoped that any young men who may be plotting revenge in the name of Jones will hear her plea.

"It's not going to bring my son back. You're just going to bring pain to another mother, or even your own," she urged. "Just put the guns down. Please, put them down."