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Friends and family of Shanquella Robinson demand justice at Charlotte rally

Nick de la Canal
Minister Quovella Wilson, in the foreground, led a chant of "Justice for Shanquella" alongside organizer Mario Black at Little Rock A.M.E. Zion Church in uptown Charlotte on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022.

Friends, faith leaders and community members gathered around the family of Shanquella Robinson at a rally for justice Saturday at Little Rock A.M.E. Zion Church in uptown Charlotte.

More than a dozen speakers called for justice and delivered messages of encouragement, grief and hope. Some quoted scripture and called on those gathered to pray for the Robinson family, who were seated in the front row.

The rally came more than a month after the 25-year-old Charlotte woman was killed while on vacation with six acquaintances near Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Mexican officials said in a statement last month that an arrest warrant has been issued for a woman believed was "likely responsible" for the death, and described the death as a "direct attack, not an accident."

The FBI has also opened an investigation into the death. No confirmations of any arrests have been made.

The case garnered national attention after reporting by WSOC-TV uncovered discrepancies in how those who were on the trip initially described Robinson's death.

Robinson's father, Barnard Robinson, told the television station that Robinson's friends initially said his daughter had died from alcohol poisoning.

However, a death certificate obtained by WSOC-TV listed Robinson's cause of death as severe spinal cord and neck injuries. The certificate did not mention alcohol poisoning.

A video also circulated online that showed a woman attacking what appeared to be Shanquella Robinson. Robinson's mother identified the woman being attacked in the video as her daughter to the television station.

The Charlotte Observer obtained a police report that said a doctor was called to the place where Robinson was staying hours before her death and wanted to bring Robinson to the hospital, though her friends insisted she be treated at home.

At a news conference before Saturday's rally, Robinson's sister, Quilla Long, told reporters what the family believed justice would look like.

"Everybody arrested and doing time in Mexico. Everybody being extradited over there and doing time there. That would be justice for us as of now," Long said.

The crowd filled the church pews at Saturday's rally that was organized by Million Youth March of Charlotte and Salisbury. Among those who attended was Charlotte City Councilman Braxton Winston.

"I'm here to bring words of comfort to the Robinson family and to the community of Charlotte. I'm going to be honest, this is tough. This is hard," Winston said. "How many words of comfort can you bring in a situation like this?"

Other speakers who grew up with Robinson in Charlotte remembered her as a young woman brimming with personality.

Pastor Irma Gardner said she often babysat Robinson before school when her mother had to leave early for work, right up until Robinson left for college at Winston Salem University.

"Her name represented goodness. She was a charming woman," Gardner said. "She meant so many things."

Jonathan Dorrest, a former classmate at West Charlotte High School, said Robinson often went by "Quella," and remembered her as a talented cheerleader who was well known among her classmates.

"She was my personal stylist," Dorrest said. "She loved to get dressed. She loved to get fresh. She was one call away from me always."

Dorrest said Robinson left a mark on the world and he joined others in extending condolences to the family.

"I feel like we don't really understand how little time we have with the people we love," Dorrest said. "Life is fragile, fleeting, complex and confusing. We know all good things come to an end, but yet we still have difficulty processing it. I wish this had never happened to Quella."

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Nick de la Canal is a reporter for WFAE covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal