Police: Seventh teen in targeted SUV unhurt in Durham shooting that killed 2, wounded 4

14December 2021

— A seventh teen was in an SUV that was the target of a Monday morning shooting that left two young people dead and four others wounded, Durham police said Tuesday.

The shooting occurred at about 3 a.m. on Mathison Street, and the SUV then crashed into a utility pole near the Eugene Street intersection.

The 15-year-old boy was unhurt in the shooting, which police said wasn’t a random act. Investigators still haven’t released details of a possible motive or suspects, however.

Police identified one of those killed as 19-year-old Isaiah Carrington, and family members have identified the other as 15-year-old Ariuna Cotton.

The others in the SUV were three girls, ages 17, 13 and 12, and a 13-year-old boy, police said. All four were being treated at Duke University Hospital, and relatives said Monday that the 12-year-old girl was in critical condition.

Youths now drawn into gangs at earlier ages, Durham expert says

Carrington was a former Northern High School and Performance Learning Center student, while Cotton was a Hillside High School student, according to Durham Public Schools.

At least two of the other teens were students at Lowe’s Grove Middle School, according to nearby residents who know the youths involved.

Carrington’s cousin called him “a good young man” who was “just out and about hanging out with his friends.”

“He didn’t even get a chance to even experience his life,” said the cousin, who didn’t want to be identified. “It’s been so many people that I’ve lost to gun violence like that.”

Cotton’s godmother, Joyce Sheffield, said the teen and her friends stopped by Sunday to celebrate Sheffield’s birthday.

“I kissed and told everybody I loved them before they left. They wished me a happy birthday, and I didn’t get them anymore,” Sheffield, adding that the last thing she told Cotton was to stay out of trouble.

Duke University psychologist Robin Gurwitch, an expert in understanding and supporting children in the aftermath of trauma and disasters, said Monday’s shooting will likely have long-term effects on the teens.

“Each time there is one of these types of events that touches the life of a child, it increases the risk for that child to experience some mental health challenges,” Gurwitch said. “If we don’t deal with it, if we don’t talk about it, if we don’t address it, it doesn’t just disappear. It just seeps into our bodies, and it’s in our heads. It permeates everything we’ve seen in our world around us.”

Durham Public Schools has counselors at area schools this week to meet with students and help them cope with the shooting. Gurwitch said parents across the community need to talk with the children about the shooting as well to gauge how they’re handling it.

“Every life in Durham is precious, especially the lives of those who walk our halls to learn and grow,” school district officials said in a statement. “Our students have limitless potential, and it is our community’s shared responsibility to ensure that their potential is not cut short by violence. We offer our highly skilled Student Services staff members as resources to every family as an additional support for conversations about what our young people are feeling.”

Efforts to support Durham youth continue

“I’ve been talking to these kids and creating initiatives, just letting them know that there are options because some of them feel like there are no options,” said Otis Lyons, a former gang member who tries to guide youths away from the path he followed.

Lyons, who goes by the name “Vegas Don,” said he was shot twice and spent years in prison before turning his life around.

“I help the kids who are being raised in these challenging communities,” he said. “[I’m] just trying to give back and help the community that I helped destroy at one time.”

His Campaign4Change initiative has been underway for 25 years, but Lyons said he has a new game plan to target at-risk areas and provide young people with the tools they need to create a better life.

“It’s way worth the lives that we’re losing in the streets,” he said.

Carrington’s cousin said something needs to be done to prevent more senseless deaths.

“The kids don’t even know what they are doing. They don’t even know how it’s affecting [others’] lives and their lives,” he said. “The only way I see it is coming together. We have to come together.”

SUV was stolen day before shooting

Police Chief Patrice Andrews said it’s too early to say whether the shooting was gang-related. Investigators are looking at all recent activity in the area to determine a motive and possible suspects, she said.

A community crime map shows at least three dozen other incidents have occurred in the area in the last month.

Police said the Hyundai Santa Fe the group was in had been reported stolen from an undisclosed location in Durham on Sunday. They didn’t say whether any of the teens have been linked to the theft.

“There is no room in our city for this type of violence. It’s senseless, it’s beyond tragic, and lives are forever going to be changed,” Andrews said at a Monday afternoon news conference.

Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call Durham police at 919-560-4440, extension 29163, or Crime Stoppers at 919-683-1200.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story included a spelling of Ariuna Cotton’s name that was provided by family members.

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