Beyond the number: Digging into the 103 Charlotte killings of 2019

Pt. 1: Voices Behind the Violence

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - It’s mid-December and we’re looking at 103 homicides so far in 2019 - the worst number since 1993. Is this year a fluke? Or is it the new normal?

For weeks, we have been digging into facts, police numbers, motives, locations of homicides, ages of those doing the killings and those killed. We’ve talked with moms who lost their children, dads who’ve lost their children, homicide detectives, assistant district attorneys, and city leaders. All to try and find some road map as to WHY.

This Wednesday, we’re compiling the facts in an hour-long special report. Important to note: You will see all 103 faces. These homicides are people, not numbers, and we’re taking time to find – and show – a photo of each and every person criminally killed at the hands of someone else this year.

We’re not personalizing Charlotte’s problem to scare you. It’s quite the opposite, actually. What you’ll see Wednesday night is truth. We obtained a master list from CMPD of all homicides from 2019: Which have arrests, which are considered “random” and which have accused repeat offenders.

We’ve boiled the facts down and found the majority of 2019’s homicides are over petty crimes. That’s something the CMPD Police Chief has said before, but examples sometimes prove a point better than statements so here are a few ridiculous reasons why people have allegedly been killed this year:

  • A dispute over $20
  • A murder over a minor car accident
  • A social media post
  • A fast food meal
  • A disagreement between roommates
  • An argument over a boyfriend
  • A fistfight over a comment made in passing
  • And several drug murders in 2019 over… wait for it… MARIJUANA.

CMPD says every homicide in 2019 that had to do with drugs was a killing over marijuana. But it’s the random crimes – over nothing – that get you most. Like Christian Estes. Police say he was a good kid with a loving family and was shot at an August party. He walked out of an apartment door and into a bullet.

Matthew Chaplin was a father sleeping in his south Charlotte home in February when a 23-year-old came in with a gun.

Darnell Harris was a Steak-n-Shake cook doing his job when a man walked in in July wanting to rob the restaurant during lunch hour.

Beautiful single mother Kendal Crank was sitting at a traffic light on her way to nursing school last March. A stray bullet shot through her window.

Riley Howell and Reed Parlier, brave young students, were killed on UNC-Charlotte’s campus in April.

In June, Ismael Doumbia was shot working overtime in a night shift at a west Charlotte gas station convenience store. Police say he was trying to make extra money to buy his son a cell phone.

John Holaday, a prominent CEO shot and killed in Charlotte while walking to a business meeting in October.

And of course, just this week, Scott Brooks. A beloved 61-year-old restaurant owner in NoDa shot and killed as he opened his iconic Charlotte spot for breakfast.

These people prove, not every case is bad-guy-versus-bad-guy. Some are just wrong place, wrong time… and because more fights now turn to guns, and bullets can’t see… it could happen to any of us. Also for Wednesday, we mapped every homicide in Charlotte from 2019. The map shows murders in all pockets of the county – including Ballantyne, Dilworth, south Charlotte, west Charlotte, east Charlotte - and the areas in between.

As an example, last month 24-year-old Michael Camacho was murdered in the hallway of a secure upscale Uptown apartment complex where you need a key fob to get in. But, why? Why is 2019 such a significant rise from the 58 homicides in Charlotte in 2018? The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief and the Mecklenburg County District Attorney will tell you because Charlotte is growing and people can’t control themselves: Silly arguments turning to people grabbing a gun.

More mentorship is needed, both leaders agree, to teach youth the value of life. The sheriff will add that these shooters are taking guns from legal gun owners, stealing from their cars in broad daylight.

Often times – the Sheriff says – from Carolina Panthers home games in the middle of a Sunday afternoon. People will have bumper sticker that promotes the “NRA” or “Second Amendment Rights” – thieves consider that a billboard to break into their vehicle, hoping they’ll find a firearm. Often, he says, they do. Not all news is bad.

Police will tell you they’ve made arrests in over 80% of the cases from 2019. This in a time when the department has 180 open positions. They say they’re proud of that clearance rate and it’s higher than many departments across the nation. But, they’ll also tell you, they’re tired.

Over a hundred homicides keeps their staff busy round-the-clock. Once an arrest is made, it then puts even more pressure on a resource-strapped District Attorney’s Office.

One Assistant D.A. tells us they make a reasonable plea offer to every defendant. If the defendant declines the offer, it will then move forward towards trial. With a tough courtroom schedule and – sometimes – waffling witnesses, it can take years to get a verdict.

You’ll see lots of this research in our Wednesday night special report… but it’s the voices you’ll hear who hit home hardest. Mothers are broken. Our mayor is livid. Children miss their dads. Siblings are lost. Friends say they’re confused. It adds up to a public outcry brewing louder by the day.

Join our WBTV News team – many of our reporters and photographers working on this hour-long report - in what we think is important for our whole community. The special will help us look ahead as a city to ask, “Where do we go from here?”

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