DURHAM — Community activists and friends of the late Kourtney Krista Dawson, speaking at a memorial service Saturday, denounced the senseless violence that cut her life short.
“Unless we as a community come together, it’s not going to stop,” said Durham resident Towanda Jackson, whose 22-year-old nephew, Paul Anthony Noel Jr., was killed two years ago in a double homicide that remains unsolved.
Dawson, 25, was an innocent bystander who was killed by a bullet intended for someone else late last month in a Northeast Central Durham neighborhood, according to Durham police. Police have charged a Creedmoor man with murder. They say he robbed a man and then shot at him, hitting Dawson instead.
The setting for Saturday’s service, Antioch Baptist Church, was especially poignant because the shooting took place in front of the church on Holloway Street.
Dawson wasn’t a member of Antioch Baptist, but the Rev. Allen Jones, the church’s associate minister, said that was irrelevant.
“The thing is, she died right there at the steps of the church,” he said. “So if there was any place that she needed to have a memorial service (for) her friends to come and heal and mourn her passing, it’s at the church.”
In the wake of Dawson’s killing, the church’s pastor, Michael Page, last month said the area has been beset by violence, prostitution and drugs for years. Page also is a Durham County commissioner.
A few people who rose from their seats to address the more than three dozen who attended the service made veiled references to Dawson’s troubled past.
“I looked at her like my daughter, because she needed that mother love,” said Rhea Ridley, who volunteers at Recovery Innovations North Carolina, which helps people with mental health problems. “Unfortunately, there were a lot of people who looked at her and saw something else. They saw a young girl they could use, they saw a person they could abuse for their own purposes.”
Last year, Dawson was convicted in Durham of soliciting for prostitution, according to state records.
Dawson, a graduate of Jordan High School who was raised by her grandmother, struggled with mental health problems and was living in a group home.
Before the service began, Ridley embraced Dawson’s grandmother and broke into tears.
“There is no reason for the senselessness,” Ridley told her. “I can’t accept it. She did nothing wrong. I want you to know she was loved. She won’t be forgotten, I guarantee that.”
James Tabron, executive director of Operation Breakthrough, a Durham community action group, told those in attendance: “There is a very thin line between it being Kourtney we are talking about and it being one of us. That line is so thin that one can see through it.”
Terry Shuff, pastor of Bull City Outreach Ministries and a self-described “street pastor,” urged those in attendance to get involved to become part of the solution.
“It’s time to get serious, folks. It’s time to get serious and get about the Father’s business,” he said. “We don’t want to see what happened to Krista ... happen to anyone else.”
A funeral for Dawson was conducted days after her slaying.