Cover Story: What are the odds on random violence in Charlotte?

Published: Apr. 25, 2011 at 10:50 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 26, 2011 at 1:25 PM EDT
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By Jeff Atkinson - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A random act of deadly violence.  A 64-year-old man was shot dead in broad daylight apparently by a total stranger.

Neighbors in a Charlotte community are now living in fear.  Maybe we're all a little uneasy.  But what are the odds?  What are the chances of being a victim?

Cases like the killing of 64-year old Bob Barber get our attention - they do shock us - it's important to put them in to context.  They're a type of crime investigators aren't used to dealing with.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe said it himself.  "A lot of things just didn't make sense that day."

Bob Barber, a man in his 60s, health care executive, a retired U.S. Air Force Reserve colonel was gunned down in broad daylight.

"You're talking about Good Friday. You're talking about 10 o'clock in the morning. Raining. There were several residents that were home because it being Good Friday. There were just a lot of things that just didn't make sense as it relates to a street robbery," said Monroe.

The killing has gripped the city's attention and threatened our sense of security.  We think if it can happen to a Bob Barber, it can happen to any one of us.

"It's very unlikely for this type of homicide to occur again anytime soon," says Dr. Vivian Lord a professor of Criminal Justice and Criminology at UNC Charlotte.

More than a decade ago a UNCC professor studied the homicides in Charlotte.  He found at that time almost all of the cases happened to what criminologists call high-risk victims and/or in high-risk areas.

In fact after a random killing in uptown in 1999 in which a woman was stabbed after work while walking to her car in the parking lot a police major at the time said this.  "This is a very tragic incident.  But it was a random act of violence.  A stranger crime which is rare in Charlotte."

Not as rare anymore as the city's grown in size.  Still the experts say your odds of being killed by a stranger are not that great.

"This is incredibly shocking because of the fact of its low probability," said Dr. Lord.  "Most of the homicides not just in Charlotte but in most places occur what we call high-risk victims.  It doesn't take away from the idea that anybody anywhere should always be watchful."

The police chief said at Monday's news conference that there was some sort of struggle between Bob Barber and his shooter.

He reiterated what criminologists say is the first crime prevention tip.  If someone with a gun wants something you have - give it to them and get out of the situation as quickly as possible.  We don't know the extent of what happened here but the message is important.

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