Three shootings in the city within six weeks are the works of the same people, with more than 140 shots fired and 16 guns used, officials said Friday.
“We call on the members of our community to assist us in solving a string of very violent gun crimes and to assist us in preventing similar crimes,” Winston-Salem Police Chief Catrina Thompson said at a media briefing on Friday.
Police said ballistics and information obtained through their investigation has led them to link a shooting outside Nova Lounge on April 7 in which seven people were shot at 515 N. Cherry St. about 1:35 a.m.; at a children’s birthday party at a park in the 2400 block of Ivy Avenue on April 13 about 7:50 p.m.; and the shooting at a cookout party in the 4200 block of Cody Drive on May 18 about 10:50 p.m., in which two men died and six other people were injured.
Police said three guns were used to fire 12 shots at the Nova Lounge shooting. Two guns have been recovered. At the shooting at the birthday party, no injuries were reported, despite more than 50 shots fired by at least five guns, police said. Two of the guns used in that shooting have been seized. In the Cody Drive shooting, police found 80 shell casings used by at least eight guns. Five of those have been found by police — four on Cody Drive after the shooting.
The weapons used in these shootings included semi-automatic pistols and semi-automatic revolvers, Thompson said, with some of the same people at the shootings. In a news release, Winston-Salem police said two people have been charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in the Nova Lounge shooting and the Cody Drive shooting. No one has been charged in direct connection to the shootings. The police department did not release the names of the two people charged with gun possession.
At the shooting at a party on Cody Drive, Jalen Chavon Cockerham, 23, of Obgurn Drive, was shot dead in the street. Fred Douglas Hawkins III, 26, of Regents Park Lane, died from his injuries 72 hours later.
Thompson said law enforcement has expended hundreds of hours investigating all three shootings, including involving the gang unit, SWAT unit, the U.S. Marshals Office and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The resident agent in charge for the district ATF was at the media briefing Friday, lending his support to the investigation.
Jackie Clayton hosted the cookout on Cody Drive on May 18, but said she thinks criminals took advantage of the situation.
She was starting to clean up after the cookout when she heard gunshots.
“I heard, ‘pop, pop, pop,’” said Clayton, who lives in the 4200 block of Cody Avenue.
She looked up from her front yard, where she’d been relaxing with her 18-year-old daughter and a few friends and saw a vehicle driving down the street shooting. It continued to the end of the cul-de-sac, turned around, slowly went back up the street and fired again in the area where it initially fired before leaving Cody Avenue, Clayton said.
“They were in a vehicle and came down the street and started shooting. I don’t know what the cause of it was,” Clayton said. “I ran into the house.”
Police confirmed there was a vehicle that was involved in a drive-by shooting on the street on May 18, but said there was other shooting on the street, as well.
Cockerham died in the street while Hawkins was critically injured and would later die. Two other men and three women were also shot, police said. An eighth person was pistol-whipped.
The cookout was a birthday party for her 29-year-old son. She disputes police information there were around 200 people on Cody Drive at the time of the shooting, saying many people had left at the time of the shooting. Clayton estimates about 100 people attended the party.
She thinks the shooting was unrelated to the cookout, but instead had something to do with a person who happened to be on the street at that time.
“There was nobody arguing here,” she said. “(The disagreement) could have been recent, it could have been something from the past few months. There was no arguing out here. Whoever was doing the shooting seized the opportunity to do what they needed to do.”
Clayton said no shots were fired at her house, although she admitted Cockerham and Hawkins were guests at the cookout.
She has held cookouts regularly, both for her son’s birthday and in honor of another son who was killed. After the shooting on May 18, Clayton vowed never to hold a public gathering again.
“I want justice for them boys. I want whoever’s responsible to be caught,” she said of Cockerham’s and Hawkins’ deaths, adding, “I feel violated.”
The shooting on Cody Drive caps an escalating number of shootings in the city, alarming police.
“This is one of the most violent strings in the city that I’ve seen in my career,” said Capt. Steve Tollie. “The amount of shots and violence is of concern.”
The city’s gang unit is trying to determine if the shootings are the works of an established gang, a new gang or other illegal activity, Tollie said.
Police have previously said Hawkins was a gang subject of interest and there were several gang members in the area of Cody Drive at the time of the shooting.
Tollie said its Integrated Ballistic Identification System (IBIS), which allows the agency to run ballistics tests in-house, has helped speed the investigation. Results on the shell casings found at the scenes have come back in hours or days, rather than weeks or months.
However, although the technology plays a crucial role, Tollie said nothing is more important in a case than cooperating victims and witnesses.
Thompson said social media posts about events and rumors don’t help an investigation. Law enforcement needs people to come forward with information.
“Witnesses, victims and others have to be willing to come forward with a detective face-to-face to provide eyewitness account to what occurred,” she said.
If people would prefer to report information anonymously, the Crime Stoppers tip line allows people to do so. Its number is 336-727-2800. For information leading to an arrest in the Cody Drive shooting, a reward of up to $5,000 is available.
“We will work around the clock to ensure no stone is unturned,” Thompson said. “Every effort is underway to solve these crimes, but community effort is needed.”
Depending on a person’s background in the case, they could potentially face federal charges.
Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill said there’s only one question the community needs to ask itself: Do you want a safe community to live in? If so, then don’t participate in vigilante justice and tell law enforcement what happened.
Bishop Todd Fulton, the social justice chair with the Minister’s Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity, said although there is a street code not to betray their friends, people should consider the larger picture and not betray Cockerham and Hawkins with silence.
Fulton said if a white officer shot several black people in this neighborhood, the Minister’s Conference would have received dozens of phone calls. It’s received zero about the deaths of these two men.
“Don’t subscribe to silence,” he said.