W. Va. Murders Linked to Crack Dealing
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.
In Huntington, West Virginia, people are laying to rest four teen-agers shot to death early Sunday morning just a few hours after two of the victims left their high school prom. One of them's already been buried. Funerals for the other three take place today and tomorrow. Police think these killings are linked to Detroit drug dealers who sell crack cocaine in Huntington. From West Virginia Public Broadcasting, Dan Heyman reports.
DAN HEYMAN reporting:
The bloodstains have been scrubbed off the sidewalks on Charleston Avenue, but cars drive past number 1410 to look at the flowers left on the spots where each victim fell. Next-door neighbor Michael Thomas found the bodies after being jolted awake by dozens of gunshots.
Mr. MICHAEL THOMAS (Huntington, West Virginia, Resident): I had rolled over on my son. My son had got into bed with me, and I had rolled over on him because it sounded like they were shooting in my room. Saw two people laying here in the driveway. Every time I look in the yard now I see dead people.
HEYMAN: Police say it's the worst killing here in at least a generation. Huntington, population 50,000, averages about six murders a year. But early Sunday, Dante Ward, Eddrick Clark, Michael Dillon and Megan Poston were shot in front of the house Ward was renting. Huntington police Captain Steve Hall says they suspect a group of out-of-town drug dealers.
Captain STEVE HALL (Huntington Police Department): There's literally dozens of individuals that are in the greater Huntington area dealing crack cocaine.
HEYMAN: Police and neighbors describe all four teens as good kids. And, in fact, Poston and Dillon had just been to their high school prom together. Police won't say if any of the teens were involved in drugs. Hall does say Dante Ward was the actual target, but he doesn't know why.
Capt. HALL: The information we're getting is that apparently Dante was the intended victim. Why was he picked as the victim? What kind of problems he had with the individuals from Detroit--I'm not going to speculate on because we just don't know at this time.
HEYMAN: Police believe the other three were killed because they saw who shot Ward. Back on Charleston Avenue, most people won't talk for fear of retribution. But privately, many of the neighbors who've come to tend the makeshift shrines also blame the Detroit drug dealers. David Wade II lives nearby. He says he knew the victims and played little league football with them as a kid. Wade says the outsiders are ruining his home.
Mr. DAVID WADE II (Huntington Resident): The people that's coming here--You know what I'm saying?--they can do stuff like this and go on away, you know? And then no one will ever figure out what happened exactly. They shouldn't be--it shouldn't be going on like that, man. They need to leave; that's all they need to do.
HEYMAN: The block has the feel of a quiet, working-class area--a solid row of simple, red-brick houses and small apartment buildings. Many of the racially mixed residents seem to know each other well and call out greetings from their front porches. But over the last two years, they say, the neighborhood has gotten rougher. Eighty-eight-year-old Emma Jordan has lived here for more than 40 years. She says a few weeks ago an old friend had to move.
Ms. EMMA JORDAN (Huntington Resident): She was one of my best neighbors. And things got so bad down there on the corner. You know, just loud and everything. And I think she got about half afraid--she was by herself--and she moved. And I was glad for her the other night.
HEYMAN: No arrests have been made, but police have questioned 15 people, 11 of them from Detroit. Several are still being held on other charges. For NPR News, I'm Dan Heyman.
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CHADWICK: I'm Alex Chadwick. Back with more DAY TO DAY in just a moment.