Duman among mayors, leaders scheduled to talk about gun violence at forum

Published 6:55 pm Tuesday, March 29, 2022

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Suffolk Mayor Mike Duman will be among the Hampton Roads leaders scheduled to participate in a gun violence forum Friday.

The meeting, to be held at 2 p.m. in board room A/B of The Regional Building at 723 Woodlake Drive in Chesapeake, will feature Duman and the mayors of other Hampton Roads cities, including Franklin, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Poquoson, Hampton, Newport News and Williamsburg.

Chief administrative officers from the region’s localities, including Al Moor of Suffolk, Randy Keaton of Isle of Wight County, Melissa Rollins of Surry County and Amanda Jarratt of Franklin, are also scheduled to take part.

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The meeting comes in the wake of more than a dozen shootings the previous weekend across the Hampton Roads region, including one in Norfolk that killed two people, including Virginian-Pilot reporter Sierra Jenkins.

It also includes the March 19 shooting on Brook Avenue in Suffolk that caused minor injuries to two people. City police said Monday it had arrested three people in connection to that incident.

On Sunday, a Chesapeake woman was killed and a Suffolk man injured in a shooting in the Burbage Grant area of North Suffolk.

Tameisha Goode Rogers, 40, was shot and pronounced dead at the scene, according to Suffolk Police, and Reginald Ashmead Thorne III, 36, is in the hospital in stable condition after being shot and suffering what police described as life-threatening injuries.

The Suffolk 911 center received a call at 10:14 p.m. about reports of an attempted armed robbery in the 6300 block of Townsend Place, just off of Respass Beach Road. Before officers arrived at Townsend Place, the victim’s vehicle was found in the 6500 block of Hampton Roads Parkway.

As part of the meeting’s agenda, the region’s leaders are to discuss and share information about the violence in the Hampton Roads region and “potential collaborative opportunities to address this issue.”

They will also be asked to share information on what strategies are under discussion in their respective localities to address violence, what regional opportunities are there to address the issue, or whether those strategies will mostly be addressed at the local level, and what partners should be included in future discussions on how to address the violence in the region.

“We can all learn from each other through successes and also failures,” Duman said. “You can learn as much from a failure as a success, so, in that regard, hopefully we can be more efficient with the resources and the time that we have.”

In 2021, there were six homicides in Suffolk, but Police Chief Al Chandler pointed out that while the number was “six too many,” all were solved.

“We didn’t solve them just because we’re great police officers,” Chandler said in a recent interview with the Suffolk News-Herald. “I think that helped – our investigative team is amazing. But we also had help from our public, and we have many people that say ‘I’m tired of seeing the violence. I’m going to speak out against the violence. I’m going to be a part of the change to save a life,’ and that makes all the difference in the world.”

Chandler also believes the COVID-19 pandemic has played a factor in the uptick in violence, saying some people’s pent-up aggression has emerged now that society has largely opened up again.

“Violence is up some, and you see that literally not just across Hampton Roads or across the state,” Chandler said, “but across the country. Keep in mind that many of our interdiction tactics were outlawed.”

One of those tactics is pretextual stops, in which an officer would stop someone for something such as a burned-out headlight, and “those types of stops oftentimes led to the discovery of contraband.”

Chandler also noted that many people are carrying guns who shouldn’t be, and noted the rise in violence across the region. But he also said his officers’ ability to find such violators “has been sharply diminished” by some state laws.

City Council recently approved $100,000 for the Suffolk Police Department, part of which will go toward implementing gunshot detection technology at the city’s borders and high crime areas. The technology, called Raven, will give officers the potential to respond to a scene before someone calls 911 and recognizes audio signals such as gunshots, screeching tires and breaking glass – sounds typical of crimes in progress.

Duman said the city is working toward putting together a public safety committee that would have a cross-section of members from different agencies and community groups in the city – representatives from, among others, the police and sheriff’s departments, the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office, community development, social services and others.

“We need to address some of the issues that are going on within the families,” Duman said. “We need to see if there’s activities, and (the) Parks and Recreation (Department) needs to be there also, because we’re not talking about just arresting people. We’re not talking about arresting bad guys. What I want to do is put together a group that will address that – how do bad guys come about? How did they grow up? Nobody was born to be a bad guy.”