Editor's note: This column has been updated with the arrest of Jaylin Sadiq McLaughlin Jr. on a murder charge.
I’m not the mayor of the city.
But I am somewhat of the self-appointed mayor of this quiet little street not far from the hustle and bustle of the fast-food restaurants just a couple of blocks from Raeford Road. I have a lifetime of experience, dating to 1956, in this neighborhood the city calls Lafayette Park.
I’ve fought the rezoning battles and just about any issue that affected the lives and livelihoods of those just trying to go about their daily activities of keeping their yards manicured as best they can and keeping an eye out for their kids and grandkids.
Like everything, times have changed from those days long ago when we peddled our bicycles, enjoyed backyard basketball and played in the pines of what once was called Cheselka Street before it turned into Purdue Drive and became a cut-through from Raeford Road to Village Drive.
You’ll find Gordon Way just past the railroad tracks off Purdue Drive, just behind Dorothy Gilmore Therapeutic Recreation Center. And just off Gordon Way you’ll find Fayetteville Gardens Apartment Homes, a Section 8 complex of nice housing units where rent is based on income.
Residents are just like everyone else. They take walks and exercise their dogs, too. Youngsters play outside, and life is good.
A tragic Saturday
It was not so good this past Saturday afternoon when a 22-year-old woman died after being shot multiple times, according to the Fayetteville Police Department. Sierra Harper was taken to the hospital in critical condition and later died, police said.
Jaylin Sadiq McLaughlin Jr. , 22, of the 3600 block of Pickerel Street in Fayetteville, was charged with first-degree murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, according to an Police Department news release. He was arrested Tuesday by members of the U.S. Marshals Service and is being held without bond at the Cumberland County Detention Center. The investigation, according to the release, says the homicide was not a random act.
The young woman’s death, according to the Police Department, is included in 15 homicides this year. That also includes the shooting death Saturday of an 18-year-old on the 2300 block of Lake Avenue along Tree Top Drive and a homicide Monday of a 71-year-old man on Ray Avenue downtown.
These are senseless deaths.
These young people along Gordon Way and Lake Avenue were only beginning to live their lives.
In this Lafayette Park neighborhood, young people growing up long ago had their differences, too. We had our disagreements in Mike Little’s backyard that looked out into what is now Fayetteville Gardens. We pushed and shoved one another in disputes during flag football games. We had our arguments in the old pines along Cheselka Street. Ronnie Mitchell gave Gary Miller a black eye in a backyard after-school basketball game.
“I feel so bad about what I did,” Ronnie Mitchell was remorseful a day later. “I shouldn’t have done that, and I’m sorry for what I did.”
We may have called one another a name or two, but we dusted ourselves off and went back to our neighborhood fun with one another. And in later years we laughed about that shiner Ronnie Mitchell gave to Gary Miller.
We didn’t shoot one another.
We didn’t kill one another.
Fayetteville Gardens just up the street and off Gordon Way once was a colony of woods where old Sarge Mitchell, the scoutmaster, 60-plus years ago gathered his Boy Scouts to pitch their tents, roast their hot dogs and marshmallows over campfires, and vowed to adhere to the Scout laws and be “morally straight.”
On Saturday, Fayetteville Gardens was a crime scene, and there was a pall over Lafayette Park.
Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-624-1961.