Two days after two men were shot to death in a parking lot, the chancellor of N.C. Central University said Monday he is pleading for more resources to fight violence in and around the Durham campus.
Chancellor Johnson O. Akinleye said campus police responded to Saturday’s shooting within seconds and saved lives. Speaking at a news conference, he said NCCU is a safe campus but can’t control what happens on its borders.
“We are a public institution and an open campus,” he said. “We cannot close up our campus with iron fences and gates.”
The news conference comes after two men were fatally shot in the parking lot next to the Latham Parking Deck on East Lawson Street.
The shooting happened during a home football game against Winston-Salem State, and locked down nearby O’Kelly Riddick Stadium. In the hours after the shooting, Durham and campus police escorted those in the stadium to their cars.
Both of the men who were shot died at the hospital, police said. Police identified them as Shamori Brown, 21, and Tavis Rhodes, 18, both of Durham.
NCCU officials said Sunday no one involved was part of the university community. Monday, police said the killings were not a random act and that they’re looking for a black Nissan Altima seen on a security camera.
“This press conference is a call to action,” Akinleye said. “We are pleading with our city, our county and state officials to commit to devoting more resources and attention to combating the issues of crime in Durham, so that the lives of those on our campus, in the neighborhoods around us and the larger Durham community can be protected.
“We will not live in fear or have our health and well being at risk due to gun violence and crime around our community,” he said. “It has to stop today.”
Yet even as he spoke, Durham police were investigating another nearby shooting Monday.
It happened Monday afternoon just off campus in the 500 block of Dupree Street. Police taped off the area by NCCU’s Farrison-Newton Communications Building on campus. The police did not release any details about possible victims or suspects.
‘Growing issue of violence’
At Monday’s news conference, Student Body President Derrick Stanfield said the fatal shootings are “reflective of the growing issue of violence in the city of Durham and its overflow on our campus.”
Stanfield said he’s confident in the university’s commitment to keeping the campus safe and said student leaders will continue to assist university police in providing a safer environment for students.
Akinleye said the university, located on Fayetteville Street south of downtown, has spent over $3 million on campus security, including installing over 900 360-degree cameras and requiring card-key entry for all buildings.
The campus police department plans to hold town hall meetings with students this week to talk about safety and share facts about this incident to dispel rumors on social media.
Shakeynah Mays, a senior, was at the football game when the shooting occurred. She said she was glad that police got the situation under control and no one at the stadium was hurt.
“I feel safe on campus,” Mays told The News & Observer after Monday’s press conference. “This could’ve happened anywhere. It just happened to happen there on that night.”
“Shootings happen everywhere,” she said.
Sophomore Amaya Daye-Dewer wasn’t on campus but became concerned when she got the alert about the lockdown. She’s aware of the violence in nearby neighborhoods and apartments but was surprised by how close this incident was.
“I feel like violence and crime is a problem only because of where we’re located,” Daye-Dewer said.
Previous requests rejected
At Monday’s news conference, Akinleye said the university asked the city to install gunshot surveillance technology around campus. A company, ShotSpotter, had offered the city a free trial, which the Durham City Council rejected.
The chancellor said the city also could devote more police patrols to the area.
The university has approached the city about policing before.
In 2014, NCCU trustees expressed support for Durham building a new police headquarters on Fayetteville Street.
The city put the headquarters downtown on Main Street instead.
Police ask that anyone with information about Saturday’s shootings call investigators at 919-560-4440 ext 29335 or Crimestoppers at 919-683-1200.
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