Jackie Davis Lewis was on the phone late Wednesday when she heard the gun explode. About five shots, she says. And then she heard the scream.
Several blocks away, her grandson lay dying.
Davyon Farrer was the latest name added to a growing list of young, Black men who have died to senseless violence in Charlotte. He was 21 years old.
Mecklenburg jail records show that Davyon had had a string of arrests, some for alleged felonies, including larceny and robbery with a dangerous weapon.
Davyon’s life ended just feet from the spot in the very same parking lot where his uncle, Cinquay Farrer, was killed last December — three days before Christmas.
Cinquay was Jackie’s son. He, too, had had run-ins with the law, once arrested for alleged possession of heroin.
The night has passed and Jackie is grieving. She’s wearing white jeans and a white t-shirt with some words on the front. Look closely and they speak to her pain: “A real life sentence is a mom losing her son to gun violence.”
On a couch nearby, Chandra Farrer, Davyon’s mother and Jackie’s daughter, sits slumped under a blanket, wiping tears with a tissue she has just been handed. Outside their screen door, a cold, spring rain is falling.
“You know, last night when it all happened I felt pretty numb,” Jackie tries to explain. “It’s not real. We just went through this. And here we are, back at the same place again…three months later.”
Jackie gives voice to a thought she just can’t seem to shake. Davyon, her grandson, was killed 21 days after his 21st birthday in the year 2021.
She pauses as if to ponder those improbable numbers.
Every city has its places — locations where violent crime proliferates. Check the official maps at the Government Center and you won’t find the 3200 block of Beatties Ford Road listed among the four crime “hot spots” of Charlotte, as identified by the police.
The neighbors who live nearby know better, though. They’ve seen the loitering, the public intoxication, the violence and the illegal drug activity. And they lay much of the blame for it all at the feet of a small convenience store there that sells beer and wine.
The A to Z store has become a hangout for trouble, they say. Davyon Farrer was killed in the parking lot on Wednesday. So was his uncle three months earlier. Fourteen-year-old Terreon Geter was at an arcade next door to the store when he was shot and killed last summer. And a 19-year-old pregnant woman who was shot two summers ago didn’t die, but she and her baby sustained “life threatening” injuries, the police said at the time.
The store soon will have a new owner, if it doesn’t already. The buyer is a Raeford company that owns a host of convenience stores, so neighbors are pushing for a new beginning. They had asked the North Carolina ABC Commission to delay transferring the store’s liquor license until the buyer agrees to end the loitering and the drug activity that neighbors despise.
On Thursday, the North Carolina ABC Commission, who regulates and issues ABC permits, confirmed that the transfer was made. The buyer, A & M Convenience Stores Inc., agreed to “take several steps to increase safety precautions at the business,” a board spokesperson said.
It’s been a long day for Jackie Davis Lewis. Hours after her grandson’s murder, she was down at the county courthouse first thing the next morning for a bond hearing. But it had nothing to do with the killing of Davyon.
The hearing was held for one of two suspects accused of killing her son, Cinquay, who was shot , Jackie says, after he tried to break up a fight outside the A to Z store.
Bond was set at $1.4 million, Jackie says. The suspect was a juvenile at the time of the crime.
As for Jackie’s grandson, it’s late afternoon now, and no arrest has been made in his killing — although Jackie says the family knows who did it. She tells a reporter in her home that she went to the arcade next door to the A to Z store to view a surveillance video, which shows it all.
Her grandson, she says, had been in a car with the man who killed him — shot him down in the parking lot, then walked toward the store, then returned to the wounded man and shot him some more.
Jackie recalls being on the phone with Davyon’s younger brother when the bullets flew — about five shots in all, she says again. The younger brother heard everything, she says — the gunshots, the screams, and a dying voice asking why. Over the phone, Jackie says, she could hear it too.
“Get up here,” the younger boy yells through the phone to his grandmother.
Before his own death, Davyon had been struggling with the killing of his uncle, the grandmother says, and now Davyon, too, is gone.
City officials know that something must be done. Charlotte’s homicide rate has been climbing. The police investigated 123 illegal killings in 2020 — just shy of a record. Other killings in the city were deemed legal, as in the cases of self-defense.
Lately, city leaders have begun to talk about violence through a public health lens, an issue related to racial equity.
The City Council has identified six “corridors of opportunity” for more public investment. Beatties Ford Road is one of those corridors.
Leaders also have earmarked millions of dollars to address violent crime in those corridors.
One such program will see the city work with Atrium Health, which will deploy a violence-intervention specialist to work in its Level 1 trauma center at Carolinas Medical Center — often the first stop for victims of gun violence.
Another city program will divide $1 million between 20 grassroots groups that have feet on the ground in high-crime neighborhoods. The city is hoping that members of these groups with eyes and ears open in the communities can anticipate and interrupt violence before it starts.
In announcing the city’s partnership with Atrium last month, Mayor Vi Lyles said Charlotte is”fully invested” in finding a way to resolve the city’s crime problem.
“We know that we have to do something,” she said. “We have no other option.”
The last three months have been like a bad dream for Jackie and her family.
The crime and violence that has festered outside the A to Z store has impacted an entire community, she said.
“It’s time we as a community step up and do something,” she adds.
Before her son Cinquay was killed, Jackie never considered herself much of an activist. But lately she’s been organizing vigils and calling for community change.
She says the one thing that bothers her about the Black Lives Matter Movement is that no one seems willing to talk about Black-on-Black killing, which she blames for destroying entire families and entire communities.
“This kind of killing isn’t benefiting anybody,” she says, “but those people sitting downtown.”
“We just need for this violence to stop,” she says. “People need to stop and think before they pull the trigger.”
She continues: “This is not the first homicide and it’s not going to be the last. But we have got to get out there and do something about it. At least we can start to slow it down.”
On Friday, police arrested a 36-year-old man and charged him with killing Davyon Farrer. In addition to a murder charge, he also was charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Davyon’s family set up a Go Fund Me page seeking donations to cover his funeral expenses.