police tape

Police tape marks the crime scene on Cody Drive on Sunday where Jalen Cockerham was found dead Saturday night.

Judging solely by a preponderance of small but well cared for homes in the area, the 4200 block of Cody Drive looks to be a placid, quiet place.

An older man labored behind a push mower in the afternoon heat Monday. Another guy had his head under the hood of a car. Two others lingered under shade trees in a cul-de-sac.

Yet there were signs of disturbance less than 48 hours removed from the chaos of a shooting death in the street Saturday night.

A pair of detectives, nearly identical in matching Winston-Salem Police Department golf shirts, khakis, sunglasses and closely cropped hair, knocked on the door of a house littered with lawn furniture, an empty cooler and trash spilling over from a large can — almost certainly the scene of a house party.

When no one answered, the detectives waved down the occupants of a small black Honda who’d just been interviewed by a TV news crew and asked a few questions of their own.

For the second time in as many months, whether authorities want to call it one or not, sleepy little Winston-Salem has suffered a mass shooting.

Thirteen people with gunshot wounds — one young man died — in separate incidents that took less time than it takes to fill a car with gas.

For what, exactly?

These things usually wind up taking the form of a scorecard. The places, more so than faces, become iconic. Outside family and friends, nobody remembers the dead.

Thirteen at Columbine. Thirty-two at Virginia Tech. Twenty-seven in Newtown, Conn. Fifty-eight in Las Vegas.

The same goes on here at the local level. Witness the standard closing line from the official police news release about the shootings Saturday that left 23-year-old Jalen Cockerham dead in the 4200 block of Cody Drive.

“This is the 6th homicide to occur in 2019, as compared to 9 homicides for the same period of time in 2018.”

Just six?

The first mass shooting happened in April outside a troublesome nightspot in the 500 block of North Cherry Street.

A conga line of strip clubs and bars filled the space through the years. Xpressions, Winkers, Harper’s, Lollipops, Nova Lounge, whatever its proprietors want to call it, the name didn’t matter because trouble inevitably followed the place like flies to an outhouse.

Early on the morning of April 7, a Sunday, seven people suffered gunshot wounds outside the club. Cops found three victims, all in their 20s, outside the club. Three other victims made their way to local hospitals on their own.

Investigators’ best guess is that there were at least two shooters — 12 shell casings from two different caliber guns were found — and that those involved had been fighting about … something.

The next one, this past weekend, happened on quiet Cody Avenue, where another fight over God knows what resulted in another mass shooting.

Six people were struck by gunfire just after 11 p.m. Saturday. Cockerham, an aspiring hip-hop artist, died. A second person, police said, was in critical condition. The other four suffered non-life threatening injuries from bullets, and yet another person reported injuries from a related assault.

And for what, exactly?

Violence too great to ignore

Whether that’s due to prurient interest, concern, fear or plain old curiosity is anyone’s guess, but my money’s on the prurient — or the morbid — mostly because of the collective shrug these things tend to inspire.

Just six? One dead? That’s nothing.

I’d even venture to say that nobody — not even police tasked with unspooling this latest mess — is looking at either incident as a mass shooting.

The victims, apparently, weren’t strangers and neither incident carried a whiff of randomness. Both resulted from fights of some sort made worse by the hot-headed instinct to settle disputes with firearms.

Nor was there anything particularly unusual about the weapons involved. Not by American standards.

There are no indications that anyone used assault rifles, high-capacity magazines or any of other gimmicks favored by modern mass murderers — just dime-a-dozen semi-automatic handguns available to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Weekend shootouts with 13 people shot, one killed and one left in critical condition over … what? Women? Money? An insult, real or imagined?

The dead man, according to his social media persona, appeared to have a fixation with gun culture. That’s neither a knock nor a slight; it’s just one fact among many that make up the entirety of someone’s story.

A recent post that quoted a rapper, left without comment, is sad for its somber prescience: “Your funeral gonna be more packed than your birthday party. Because (people) would rather see you on your back than on your feet.”

The scope of the recent violence is too great to ignore. In two months, we’ve had two mass shootings. If you’re keeping score, that’s 13 victims shot in less time than it takes to tweet.

It was just another weekend in America, two more mass shootings in a nation awash in blood. Only this time, again, it was our turn.

Get today’s top stories right in your inbox. Sign up for our daily morning newsletter.

ssexton@wsjournal.com 336-727-7481 @scottsextonwsj

Recommended for you

Load comments