Seventeen homicides and a rash of shootings have occurred in Winston-Salem so far this year, continuing a four-year spike in the number of homicides in the city.
Included in that number are mass shootings at Cody Drive and Nova Lounge, a fatal shooting at BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse at Hanes Mall and the killings of two children, a 5-year-old and a 7-month-old.
On Thursday, more than 100 law-enforcement officers, translators and local residents canvassed an area behind Bowman Gray Stadium near where Alberto Rios Navarrette, 5, was shot and killed on July 6 as he played in the living room of his apartment in the Cole Ridge Circle Apartment complex.
Winston-Salem police have charged three people with murder in connection with Alberto’s death — Oscar Rodriguez Mendez, 17, and two juveniles whose names haven’t been released.
Police have obtained a warrant for a fourth suspect, Santiago Marcial Rodriguez, 17, on a murder charge, but officers haven’t found him.
During the canvass, police also searched for leads in two other unsolved shooting deaths that occurred in the same area: the June 5 killing of David Perez Pineda, 31, of Tara Court and the July 16 killing of Eneas Fladimir Bustos-Rojas, 18, of Bruce Street.
Police found Pineda’s body in the driveway of a house in the 2200 block of Cole Road. Busto-Rojas was found dead in woods.
Denise Nation, an associate professor of justice studies at Winston-Salem State University, said Friday that the law-enforcement officers’ canvass of the neighborhoods was the right approach.
“I’m glad they brought in translators,” Nation said. “They and Hispanic-speaking officers do a good job of allaying the fears of residents in those neighborhoods.”
Many local residents are willing to talk to police after killings and shootings happen in their neighborhoods, Winston-Salem Police Chief Catrina Thompson said.
“But they don’t want to do it publicly,” Thompson said. “They are not interested in going officially on the record.
“They don’t want to do go before a judge or a jury,” she said. “That’s actually what we need.”
Winston-Salem police have made arrests in four of the 17 homicides that have occurred so far this year.
One of the solved cases is the death of Fernando Soto, 24, of Stoney Glen Circle. The Forsyth County District Attorney’s Office didn’t file charges against his brother, Felipe Soto Jr., who shot Fernando Soto in self-defense, police said.
Detectives are working to find suspects in the unsolved homicides. Most of the victims were shot to death, police Capt. Steven Tollie said.
“We continue to follow leads in many of these investigations, and continue to request that witnesses with information come forward to authorities,” Tollie said. “In the majority of the investigations, some type of relationship existed between the victim and the offender prior to the event.”
The most recent killing happened Wednesday when Dorrell Queshane Brayboy, 31, of Orchid Drive was stabbed in the parking lot of a Food Lion supermarket at 1499 New Walkertown Road, police said. The fatal stabbing happened after Brayboy had argued with another man.
Brayboy was taken to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, where he died of his injuries. B
rayboy’s girlfriend and his two children saw the attack, police said.
Investigators have identified a suspect, and are looking for a man who left the scene in a gray Chrysler 300.
The city’s 16th homicide occurred Aug. 23 when Ernest Rennard Cameron, 23, of Sprague Street was shot on South Main Street at its intersection with Silas Creek Parkway. Cameron was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Deedward Devon Glenn, 24, of Winston-Salem was arrested Wednesday in connection with the case and charged with three counts of discharging a firearm into an occupied vehicle, inflicting serious injury, court records say. As of Friday, he had not been charged with killing Cameron.
Several shots were fired at Cameron from another vehicle, police said. A woman and a toddler-age boy were in Cameron’s car when the gunfire happened, police said.
Winston-Salem’s 15th homicide happened Aug. 6 when Julius Randolph Sampson Jr., 32, of Oak Pointe Drive was shot and killed outside BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse at 192 Hanes Mall Circle, an outparcel at Hanes Mall.
Robert Anthony Granato, 22, is charged with felony murder and misdemeanor carrying a concealed gun while or after consuming alcohol in connection with Granato’s death. Granato is being held in the Forsyth County jail with no bond allowed on the murder charge.
Granato and a friend who has not been charged in connection with the shooting, were at BJ’s Restaurant and drinking alcohol, according to a search warrant. Managers at the bar decided to stop serving alcohol to Granato and his friend because of their behavior.
When an unidentified female bartender told the two men they were cut off, they became belligerent toward her, according to the warrant.
Sampson asked Granato to stop bothering the bartender, and the two men began arguing. Winston-Salem police have said that both men used racial epithets. Granato is white and Sampson is black.
According to the search warrant, Sampson and Granato continued arguing outside the restaurant. Then the two men began fighting, and Granato pulled out a handgun he had in the backside of his waistband. Granato allegedly shot Sampson in the chest.
Thompson sees tragic consequences in all of the 17 homicides as she points to the loss of the victims and their accused killers from their families.
“When we make arrests in our homicides, and you have a black male who has killed another black male, I don’t just lose one black male out of our community, I lose two,” Thompson said in a recent interview at the Vivian H. Burke Public Safety Center on North Cherry Street. “That means that there are two black males who will never have the opportunity to read to a child, (and) will never have the opportunity to contribute to the development of our community.”
Thompson is confident that her investigators will find suspects linked to the city’s unsolved homicides, but the detectives need the community’s help to solve these crimes, she said.
“Violent crime is occurring in Winston-Salem,” Thompson said. “We are relentless in our efforts to reduce it and stop it.”
During the recent canvass, officers were joined by local residents, area ministers and other church leaders, interpreters and translators.
The law officers and civilians asked the residents in the Skyline Village Apartments as well as the neighborhoods around Cole Road and inside the Cole Ridge Circle Apartments if they had any information regarding three recent killings.
After the investigators completed their canvass, police Lt. Gregory Dorn said officers will conduct follow-up interviews with three residents regarding Bustos-Rojas’ death.
Winston-Salem had 26 homicides in 2018, 25 in 2017, 24 in 2016, 17 in 2015, 15 in 2014 and 15 in 2013, according to police data.
This year’s homicides have happened in Winston-Salem along with a rash of shootings that left several people wounded.
The police department cannot provide an accurate count of the shootings that happened this year because its records system doesn’t differentiate between various types of assaults and weapon information, police Capt. Katie Allen said in an email to the Winston-Salem Journal. The newspaper requested the number and locations of shootings this year that didn’t result in deaths.
Shootings are reported and documented as a wide variety of offenses such as discharging firearms; aggravated assault; assault with a deadly weapon; assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill; and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, inflicting serious injury, Allen said.
On Aug. 22, three teenagers were shot in the Lambeth Mobile Home Park in the 4600 block of South Main Street.
Eduardo Ozuna, 18, of Greene Cross Drive was arrested and charged with three counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to inflict serious injury in connection with the shooting, police said.
Ozuna is accused of shooting Eduardo Saligan-Calleja, 19; Luis Saligan-Calleja; and Brian Chiman, according to an arrest warrant. Police have declined to release the ages of Luis Saligan-Calleja and Chiman.
The victims survived the shooting.
According to court records, Ozuna is a certified gang member who was on probation at the time of the shooting. Police don’t know whether the Aug. 22 shooting was gang-related.
Ozuna is being held in the Forsyth County jail with bond set at $75,000, police said.
On Aug. 20, a robbery and a shooting occurred at a house in the 700 block of Efird Street that left a teenager and a man wounded, police said.
Officers found Jayden Maurice Jamison, 16, and Jake Denard Westmoreland, 34, both of Efird Street, with apparent gunshot wounds in their home, police said. Jamison and Westmoreland were taken to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, where they were treated for injuries that were not considered life-threatening.
Two days later, police arrested Abram Walter Cotton, 21, of Piedmont Circle and charged him with robbery with a dangerous weapon and assault inflicting serious bodily injury.
Cotton is being held in the Forsyth County jail, with his bond set at $510,000, police said.
On June 17, Tevin Lamar Bonner, 28, of El Paso, Texas, was seriously wounded by gunfire in the 1600 block of Williamson Street near Timlic Avenue, police said. Bonner died five days later at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
A 13-year-old and a 15-year-old were arrested and were charged with murder in connection with Bonner’s death. The teens are being held in a local juvenile-detention center.
On May 31, Quenterio Martico Threats, 29, was found shot to death in the 2800 block of Piedmont Circle about 4 a.m. by officers responding to a report of shots being fired.
Threats’ death happened two weeks after a shooter drove by a crowd of people gathered in the 4200 block of Cody Drive on May 18 after a cookout, shooting seven people, two fatally.
Jalen Chavon Cockerham, 23, of Ogburn Avenue died at the scene; Fred Douglas Hawkins III of Greensboro died three days later at a local hospital.
Five other people were treated at hospitals for gunshot wounds. An eighth person was pistol-whipped during the incident.
The Cody Drive shooting was the second mass shooting in the city this year. On April 7, seven people were injured in a shooting at the Nova Lounge at 515 N. Cherry St. in downtown Winston-Salem.
Police said they believe the Cody Drive and Nova Lounge shootings were committed by the same person or people and are connected to a shooting April 13 in the 2400 block of Ivy Avenue. No one died in the Ivy Avenue shooting.
Three guns were used to fire 12 shots in the Nova Lounge shooting. Two guns have been recovered. In the Ivy Avenue shooting, no injuries were reported despite more than 50 shots fired by at least five guns, police said.
Two of the guns used in that shooting have been seized. In the Cody Drive shootings, police found 80 shell casings from at least eight guns. Police have found five of those guns, including four left on Cody Drive after the shooting.
The weapons used in the three shootings were handguns, police said.
Winston-Salem police are working with the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office and other agencies to help solve the cases.
During a news conference in May, investigators urged people who have information about the shootings to come forward. So far, witnesses haven’t cooperated with investigators, police said.
Two people have been charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in the Nova Lounge and Cody Drive shootings, authorities have said, but police didn’t identify them. No one has been charged in direct connection to the shootings
Investigators have received leads in the Cody Drive and Nova Lounge shootings and have seized more guns tied to the shootings since the news conference, Tollie said. Detectives are following up on those leads and conducting interviews.
Most of the homicide victims, 12 of them, have been black men, police said.
The other victims include three Hispanic males, one white man and one black woman, police said.
“We never really want to address the elephant in the room, but these shootings are occurring in the black community,” said Forsyth County Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough. “It brings up ill feelings. It tears into old wounds.”
Kimbrough, Thompson and Bishop Todd Fulton, the social -justice chairman of the Ministers’ Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity, acknowledged that many black residents don’t trust law-enforcement officers, including Winston-Salem police and Forsyth County sheriff’s deputies.
That mistrust might be the reason that witnesses and victims of recent shootings are not cooperating with investigators, they say.
The source of that mistrust between African Americans and police dates back for hundreds of years in the United States, Kimbrough, Thompson and Fulton said. Clashes between black protesters and police officers during the civil rights movement in the 1960s reinforced it on both sides.
The national trend in recent years of mostly white police officers shooting unarmed black men also contributes to the mistrust, researchers and scholars say.
Fulton points to the Darryl Hunt case as another factor in some blacks’ lack of trust in local police officers.
Hunt, a black man who died in 2016, spent 19 years in prison before he was exonerated in 2004 of the murder of Deborah Sykes, a white copy editor at The Sentinel, an afternoon newspaper that closed in 1985. Hunt’s supporters maintained that Winston-Salem police unjustly targeted Hunt for Sykes’ killing in 1984.
All of those factors have led to a culture among many black youth that kept them from talking to police about crimes within their neighborhoods, Fulton said.
The culture of people not snitching on their friends and acquaintances is stronger that their desire to help the community and police with information that would lead to the arrests of the shooting suspects, he said.
Witnesses also fear retaliation from the shooters, Fulton said.
“It’s a real possibility that could happen,” he said. “But eyewitnesses are the best evidence that you can have. The only way they can solve these cases is with the help of the community.”
Local residents also may be reluctant to identify the shooting suspects to the police, said Kimya Dennis, an associate professor of criminology at Notre Dame of Maryland University in Baltimore.
“Adding more blacks to the criminal justice system is not something that most blacks want to do,” Dennis said, “even if they know that the person is doing something that they shouldn’t be doing.”
Older black people taught younger blacks not to snitch, said Dennis, a former associate professor of sociology and criminal studies at Salem College.
“Millennials didn’t invent that,” she said.
The lack of cooperation by witnesses and victims with police is a societal phenomenon, Tollie said.
“Law enforcement has a duty and responsibility to investigate crimes that occur in the community we serve, and to work toward preventing those crimes whenever possible,” he said. “However, the responsibility for the well-being and safety of that community does not rest solely on the shoulders of law enforcement.
“The success of law enforcement in the investigation of crimes and prevention of future crimes is impacted considerably by the communication between law-enforcement authorities and community members,” he said.
Societal ills such as poverty in eastern Winston-Salem, where some of the shootings occurred, may also be a factor, Kimbrough said.
“When there is no direction for upward mobility, people can resort to criminal activity,” the sheriff said.
Issues related to poverty such as health disparities among local residents and access to illegal and prescription drugs also can cause criminal activity, Dennis said.
“Most black people are not trying to kill anyone,” Dennis said. “Most crimes are not random acts of violence. It’s usually people who know each other in some way.”
Social and mainstream media are also sending messages to young people that they shouldn’t trust the police and not to snitch on their friends involved in crimes, Kimbrough said. Witnesses might be willing to identify the shooters to police, but they also might be reluctant to publicly testify in a court hearing or a trial against the suspects, he said.
However, witnesses have a moral obligation to say something if they saw someone shot or killed, Kimbrough said.
Police are investigating whether gangs are involved in any of the city’s unsolved homicides.
“That aspect of the investigation is still ongoing and undetermined,” Tollie said.
Police have said there are 34 gangs in Winston-Salem with about 1,400 members, associates and persons of interest. The gangs include the Bloods, the Crips, MS-13 and the Hell’s Angels, police said.
“We have gangs in this county,” Kimbrough said. “And of course, that’s a public-safety issue.”
Local gangs might be a branch of national gangs based in cities such as Atlanta, Kimbrough said. Local gangs may also have regional contacts in other cities.
Kimbrough, a native of Winston-Salem, said he has spoken with the families of the shooting victims, and he attended the funerals of those slain.
Many of the attendees were young people, Kimbrough said.
“I saw the pain in their faces, their tears and anger,” the sheriff said. “I cried also.”
Thompson said people want the violence to end.
“We have a lot of good people who want to do the right thing,” Thompson said. “Some are afraid to come forward. No doubt.
“But there are some who are fed up,” she said. “They are tired of burying their nephews, their sons, their friends, their cousins and their uncles. At the end of the day, they want justice, and they want this to stop.”
Winston-Salem police are building trust in communities throughout the city, Thompson said.
“But we can’t arrest our way out of situations,” she said, “and we can’t keep our community safe in a vacuum.”
Domonique King, 25, of Winston-Salem said the deadly gun violence sickens him. King has led online efforts to get people to see the people killed as victims — not as criminals. King acknowledged that people might be hesitant to talk.
“I guess people don’t want to be snitch,” King said. “It’s sad, but that’s the way it is.”
But the victims have families — children, wives mothers and girlfriends, he said.
“Someone loved them,” King said.
Pro-life advocates in some circles across the country are hailing Yadkin County commissioners for making it the first sanctuary county in the country for the unborn.
But the commissioners never took such an action.
On Aug. 19, the Yadkin County Board of Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution that recognizes “the full humanity of the unborn child” and declares the county to be a “strong advocate for the preborn” that will defend the dignity of all humans, from conception or fertilization.
The word “sanctuary” never appears in the resolution.
That word did appear in a draft resolution that local pastor Keith Pavlanksy presented to the board in early August. But upon the recommendation of county attorney Ed Powell, the word was stricken from the final resolution that the commissioners adopted, according to Kevin Austin, the chairman of the board of commissioners.
Despite the change in wording, Austin said the intent is the same.
“It has the same effect,” Austin said. “The word ‘sanctuary’ can be used interchangeably. It’s just not the word in our resolution.”
Susanna Birdsong, senior policy counsel for the ACLU of North Carolina, said the resolution will have no bearing on a woman’s constitutional right to have an abortion.
“Abortion is legal in all 50 states, including North Carolina, and this unenforceable resolution does nothing to change that,” Birdsong said in a statement. “Women have a right to access the care they need without shame, obstacles and stigma no matter where they live. We encourage any Yadkin County residents who have concerns about the impact of this policy to contact our office.”
Pavlanksy spearheaded the push for the county to be a sanctuary county for “preborn” children. Pavlanksy is a pastor at Faith Fellowship Church in Yadkinville and president of Personhood North Carolina, which is affiliated with the Personhood Alliance.
The Personhood Alliance is a pro-life organization that classifies human beings as legal persons, from the moment of conception. It has launched an initiative aimed at getting municipalities declared as sanctuaries.
Pavlanksy approached Yadkin County commissioners in early August about passing a resolution to make the county a sanctuary, handing copies of a draft to them. Billy Seats, the pastor of Southside Baptist Church in Yadkinville, also spoke in support of the resolution, saying that churches will support young women who have babies instead of aborting them.
At the following meeting, the commissioners passed a resolution without discussion. That resolution omitted the word sanctuary.
Personhood Alliance sent out a press release with a video calling Yadkin County the first sanctuary county in the country and word soon spread on social media through such outlets as Church Militant, Mommy Activist and Christian Headlines.
Yadkin County Manager Lisa Hughes reiterated on Thursday that commissioners did not make the county a sanctuary.
Pavlanksy called the passing of the resolution a huge victory and anticipates surrounding counties will adopt their own resolutions. He also expects the county will commemorate the passing of the resolution with a plaque on a government building. The draft resolution called for a plaque, but that also was struck from the final resolution.
Austin said the board’s action is best memorialized in the minutes of the meeting, but he didn’t discount the idea of a plaque at a government site.
“We’ll see,” he said. “I can’t say yes or no on that right now.”
Tara Romano, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, said the resolution sends a message of shame to people in Yadkin County who have had abortions or who love someone who did.
“Abortions are already a stigmatized procedure. It’s a personal decision that women make for a lot of reasons,” she said. “This resolution further stigmatizes abortion care.”
The resolution doesn’t call for the county to take any concrete steps that might impact, for instance, its family planning program in the Department of Human Services. The county’s teen pregnancy rate has spiked from 28.2 per 1,000 15-19 year old girls to 46 in 2018, according to the 2018 State of the County Health Report compiled by the Department of Human Services.
Austin said he sees the resolution as showing support for a cause, much in the same way the commissioners have passed resolutions raising awareness of child abuse and domestic violence.
“It’s great we have a community that feels so strongly and willing to step forward for these things, whatever it is,” he said.
A Winston-Salem man convicted of kidnapping a custodian of a restaurant, shooting him three times in the head and leaving him dead on the road 17 years ago will be eligible for parole, a Forsyth County judge ruled last week
Judge William A. Wood of Forsyth Superior Court had to re-sentence Jaamall Oglesby on Tuesday because Oglesby was 16 when he was arrested for the murder of Scotty Jester on Sept. 10, 2002. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2012 prohibited judges from giving mandatory life sentences to juveniles. In 2016, the court made that previous ruling retroactive.
The N.C. General Assembly passed legislation requiring that no-parole life sentences be modified if they were given to juveniles convicted of first-degree murder under the felony murder rule. Under the felony murder rule, people can be charged with first-degree murder if they are accused of killing someone while committing another felony, such as robbery.
Because of Wood’s ruling on Tuesday, Oglesby, 33, is now eligible for parole after serving 25 years. He won’t be getting out of prison anytime soon. Oglesby has served only 15 years, and he also has to serve additional time for two unrelated armed robbery convictions.
According to testimony at trial, Jester, 31, was cleaning the now-closed Copeland’s restaurant on Hanes Square on the night of Sept. 10, 2002.
Oglesby and three other people — Robert Masifeld Davis Jr., Antwan Edward James and Sarah Ann Cranford — were planning to rob the restaurant.
Oglesby was waiting outside for a manager to come out, but Jester came out instead.
Davis testified that Oglesby forced Jester into another cleaner’s car and had Davis drive out to the interchange of Interstate 40 and U.S. 52.
Davis said Oglesby forced Jester out of the car and shot him three times in the head. Cranford testified that she was in another car and that she also saw Oglesby shoot Jester.
James told prosecutors that he was too drunk to remember the incident.
Oglesby took the stand and denied shooting Jester. He said Davis was the one who pulled the trigger.
A Forsyth County jury convicted Oglesby of first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping and attempted armed robbery.
Cranford, 38, and James, 45, both pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact to first-degree murder.
James was sentenced to nine years to about 11 years in prison. Cranford received a suspended sentence and was placed on supervised probation for five years. She also had to serve an active sentence of six months.
Davis pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, second-degree kidnapping and attempted armed robbery and was sentenced to between about 15 years and 18 years in prison. All three have served their sentences.
On Tuesday, there was no dispute about whether Oglesby would be re-sentenced on the murder conviction. The main dispute was whether his sentence for first-degree kidnapping would be served at the same time as his sentence for murder or separately. That sentence is about two to three years in prison.
Julie Boyer, Oglesby’s attorney, argued that Oglesby should be able to serve that kidnapping sentence at the same time. She acknowledged that Oglesby has racked up a number of infractions while in prison but argued that Oglesby had little motivation to do better since he was told he was going to die in prison.
The possibility of parole gives him some incentive to make changes, and he has already made some positive moves, including proposing a program to help steer other young men from the choices he made, Boyer said.
She also raised questions about his conviction. She pointed out that Forsyth County prosecutors painted Oglesby as the ringleader, even though he was the youngest of the defendants charged in Jester’s murder.
He had a low IQ and was held in custody for more than 24 hours without having his aunt present, even though he asked for her. Under current law, law-enforcement officials are required to make sure that a parent or legal guardian is at the police department when a juvenile is held in custody, she said.
Assistant District Attorney Penn Broyhill said these cases are hard because victim’s families are supposed to have some closure after a defendant is convicted and sentenced.
Some of Jester’s family members have died, and the prosecutor’s office was unable to locate Jester’s mother.
He also argued that the infractions, which include involvement with a gang and assault on prison staff members, indicate that Oglesby has done little to rehabilitate himself.
Oglesby said he has no excuses for his behavior but said he has sought mental-health services and is taking medication that should help him stabilize. He had been diagnosed as having bipolar disorder, according to his attorney.
He said he is taking classes and no matter when he gets out, he wants to improve other people’s lives, he said.
“Whether I get out or not, I still have that passion,” he said.