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One Year After Beatties Ford Road Mass Shooting: More Questions, No Closure

Beatties Ford Road_2021.jpg
Sarah Delia
Memorials for the four victims who lost their lives last year are still present on Beatties Ford Road one year later.

It's been nearly one year since four people were killed and several others wounded in a mass shooting at a block party early June 22, 2020, on Beatties Ford Road.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Lt. Bryan Crum says he understands the community is frustrated that no arrests have been made.

"We’re frustrated, too," Crum said this week in a news conference. "Stick with us, we’re going to continue working. We can never guarantee results, but I can tell you we will follow every possible lead that we have in an attempt to bring resolution to that case."

In the Beatties Ford Road area, last year's violence is still in the hearts and minds of many community members.

Leaning against a tree on Beatties Ford this week, Mario Black pointed to tire tracks in the middle of the pavement. They're the same tire tracks, he said, from cars doing donuts during Juneteenth celebrations nearly a year ago. The markings are faded, but his memories are fresh.

"I know why the tire marks are here," Black said. "It’s just weird."

This is the same place he stood last year, down to the tree, when he was recording a video of the block party with his phone as shots were fired and a large crowd turned and ran in his direction.

Mario Black_Beatties Ford Road.jpg
Sarah Delia
Mario Black leans against the same tree he was resting on when he heard shots ring out last year.

"It was life-changing for anybody that was out here," Black said. "We have to carry it with us in our everyday lives, and it shouldn't happen. That's all I kept saying. It was something that shouldn't have happened because it was going so good, you know, and for somebody to do something foul like that and then take lives like that — three of them were fathers; fathers who basically got killed on Father's Day."

Close by is a Bank of America where Black parked last year. Beeps from a nearby ATM hung in the air as Black reflected on his connections to three of the four victims.

"Jamaa Cassell and I went to West Charlotte (High) together," Black said. "He was two years ahead of me, and I actually taught his son. Dairyon Stevenson — I watched him grow up. Christopher Gleaton is a part of my family, so the connection there."

He’s gotten to know the family of the fourth victim, Kelly Miller, over the past year. Black has organized a silent march that will take place on Beatties Ford Road on Tuesday, the anniversary of the shooting. The event begins at 7 p.m. and starts at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church. He wants the families of the victims to know the community still cares.

"My main thing is, you know, just seeing that those families get some type of closure," Black said.

Donnell Washington was there with Black that night. He remembers feeling like something was different compared to the previous days of celebration.

"The atmosphere was off a little bit, so I was kind of worried about that," Washington said. "But I didn’t think anything like that would happen because there were kids out there."

Standing in the Food Lion parking lot on Beatties Ford, Washington remembered running when he heard the gunshots. At one point he lost his flip-flops and had to run barefoot. He remembers hiding behind a car, not knowing which direction the bullets were coming from.

A year later, Washington wonders if police are looking in the right places since no information about a motive has been released.

"I remember a car coming down, and I remember them throwing up gang signs, and so I honestly think it’s more gang-related, and I just don’t think they have the right pieces to put it together," Washington said.

Sarah Delia/WFAE
Donnell Washington first spoke to WFAE in 2020 on what he saw and heard the night of the shooting.

City Council member Malcolm Graham, whose district includes Beatties Ford Road, says police are working hard on this case. There were about 400 people out that night. He worries "snitching culture" is getting in the way of someone coming forward with helpful information.

"CMPD wants to do their job and do it to the best of their abilities," Graham said. "They can't do it unless they get help from the community."

The violence on Beatties Ford is frustrating, Graham says, especially as so many community leaders are working to make it a better place.

"So many people were disappointed because so many people are fighting for and working toward trying to build a better community," Graham said.

A little farther down Beatties Ford on a recent day was one of the people working to bring beauty and community together in west Charlotte.

Ricky Singh_Beatties Ford.jpg
Sarah Delia
Artist Ricky Singh is a west Charlotte resident committed to making the west side beautiful.

Artist Ricky Singh is a resident of the west side who moved to Charlotte more than a decade ago from New York. This part of the city reminded him of home.

It was a hot day — not great for painting a mural. But Singh said he’s almost finished. The piece on the side of the Lulia's Market, a convenience store, depicts the past, present and future of the west side. He said more people need to come experience this part of town.

"The west side is love," Singh said. "It's a five-sense experience. We've got to taste it. You've got to smell it. You've got to hear it. You've got to speak to it. So I would encourage anybody to come to the west side. Like any community, you have to experience it before you make a judgment."

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Courtesy of Ricky Singh
Artist Ricky Singh was one of several to work on this mural on Lulia's Market on Beatties Ford Road as part of the Beatties Ford Strong movement.

As part of the "Beatties Ford Strong" movement, Singh and other artists have been on a mission over the past year to bring more art and beauty to this part of Charlotte. That included a mural honoring the four people who lost their lives in the shooting.

Singh knows loss. He says his brother died 16 years ago and he doesn’t have a lot of closure around his death. He focuses on what he can control, he says, and pouring his efforts into his community.

Courtesy of Ricky Singh
Artists are on a mission to bring beauty to the west side.

"There have been many events that affected the west end, like in any community," Singh said. "But, yes, I think that those that have been primarily affected are connected to a massacre like that is something that weighs on you and something that you think about. But there's been a lot more events that have happened in our community, like in any other community in Charlotte or in the state, that have impacted families and people in different ways.

"You try to wrestle with it. Sometimes you don't get closure."

Courtesy of Ricky Singh
In June of 2020 days after the shooting, artist Ricky Singh and others worked to paint this first mural near the scene of the incident to honor the victims. It started a movement to bring beauty and community together in the west side.

That lack of closure is something Kenneth Stevenson, the father of Dairyon Stevenson, knows all too well. Standing in front of his home, miles away from Beatties Ford, he said there’s not much more he can say other than he hopes someone comes forward with information that will lead to an arrest.

"If you know something, say something," Stevenson said. "That's just about it for me."

His family has gotten closer this past year, and they can talk about the good times and remember Dairyon. There have also been hard moments as they navigate their grief, like those annual milestones that feel heavy without Dairyon. There was his birthday on May 12 and Mother's Day. And Mondays can be hard since that was the day of the week he died, Stevenson said.

"And just the holidays in general," he said. "You know, it's tough when it's the first time around a holiday and you don't have a loved one."

Dairyon Stevenson would have been 32 this year. He was a father and engaged to be married when he died.

Stevenson believes part of the reason why no one has come forward with the right piece of information to solve the case is because they're afraid. There’s even a $17,300 reward, but there are no updates.

"It’s either the code of the streets or just the fact that people just are afraid for their life or for their families' life," he said. "So I would say, yes, it's going to take the streets to find out the people that did it, more so than the police."

This weekend and into next week, family members will be focusing on being together and remembering Dariyon. They’ll visit his grave and attend the march Black is organizing on Beatties Ford Road on Tuesday. And they’ll celebrate Father’s Day with a balloon release.

Courtesy of Kenneth Stevenson
Dairyon Steveson was one of four people killed last year during a mass shooting on Beatties Ford Road.

Wished a Happy Father’s Day, Stevenson's face lit up and he smiled. He’s proud to be a dad.

Dairyon was, too.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police are encouraging anyone with information to call 704-432-TIPS to speak with a homicide detective. People can also call Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600 to leave information anonymously.

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Sarah Delia covers criminal justice and the arts for WFAE. Sarah joined the WFAE news team in 2014. An Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist, Sarah has lived and told stories from Maine, New York, Indiana, Alabama, Virginia and North Carolina. Sarah received her B.A. in English and Art history from James Madison University, where she began her broadcast career at college radio station WXJM. Sarah has interned and worked at NPR in Washington DC, interned and freelanced for WNYC, and attended the Salt Institute for Radio Documentary Studies.