There's no simple way to tally the human toll of killing on a community — for the victims, their families, their friends.
Unsympathetic readers might look back at the year's headlines — at the 39 Richmonders whose lives were cut short by homicide — and arrive at a callous conclusion: a compiling of those who received a violent end as payback for bad choices made, for past crimes committed, for the drugs used, bought or sold.
But after the headlines of death, linger the memories of the living.
In pictures taken in happier times, their eyes may glow with a light of life. Or those eyes may be blank, cold and angry, reflecting a life born of challenge, disadvantage and societal disregard.
“While a person that's killed had been doing something bad — they may have been on drugs, a drug user or a robber or whatever — this was still somebody's child,” says Capt. Gary Ladin, commander of Richmond Police Department's major crimes division. “Somebody loved that person. One murder is one too many.”
Overall, this year has been another easy year on the city, comparatively. Where less than a decade ago Richmond ranked among the most dangerous cities in the country, Ladin says, Richmonders now can walk the streets at night knowing they're safer.
“We're experiencing a huge boom in population in the downtown area over the past 10 years,” Ladin says, pointing to the proliferation of young professionals and older couples excited by the convenience of urban living. That sort of development would have been difficult to achieve a decade ago. But even in 2006, when the year-end homicide tally was 95, the shift had already begun.
“It's perception versus reality,” he says. “Perception was that Richmond was a very dangerous place to be. We've changed the perception to a reality that this is a very safe city. That's a tough thing to overcome, that perception versus reality.”
art of the reality is that of those who died violently — excluding D'Sean Williams, a 2-year-old who tragically died of alleged child neglect — all chose to be where they were when they died. Though in light of the year's final murder — 19-year-old Reginale N. Lee, who died at the scene somewhere in the 1000 block of St. James Street shortly after he was shot less than two hours before the new year began — it's hard to believe anyone would choose to take such risks.
Ladin says crime statistics reveal this singular success for the city's efforts to fight crime:
“One of the categories we [maintain] is called ‘innocent bystander,'” he says. “In that category, [there were] zero percent.”
And in a city in transition, struggling to rebuild and be reborn after many years shadowed by the violence of its past, Ladin says: “That's a bold statement, right there.”
Remembering the Lost: The victims of homicide in Richmond in 2009
David Boyd Jr., 35, Jan. 4
Antonio Stokes, 39, Jan. 28
Louis-Charles Kepler, 21, Feb. 6
Troy Ferguson, 26, Feb. 9
Sean McKay, 29, Feb. 15
Randy Crawford, 44, Feb. 20
Orlando Alston, 24, Feb. 28
Walter Page, 26, March 22
Amilkar Figeroe, 26, March 28
Everett Adams, 56, March 31
Baudilio Lopez-Andres, 52, March 31
Timothy L. Johnson, 33, April 3
Kamel Dickerson, 33, April 12
Kelvin R. Green Sr., 38, April 13
Levon Alford, 24, April 18
Jomond Lighfoot, 24, April 20
Jamall Holman, 24, April 22
Alnita Coleman-Randolph, 47, April 22
Percy Leroy Robinson, 54, May 1
Franklin Edward Baker, 26, May 5
Thomas Henry Scott, 21, May 13
Daniel Adam Burns, 32, May 22
Matthew Lacy Myers, 34, May 25
Darius Alphonzo Athey, 19, May 31
Ashraf M. Alatiyat, 31, June 9
D'Sean Williams, 2, May 30
Paul Germaine Brown, 32, June 13
Richard Junious Williams, 47, July 7
Qian Wu Huang, 17, July 27
Leeshaun Bynum, 23, Aug. 9
James E. David, 31, Aug. 28
Joseph C. McCray, 54, Sept. 15
Carl C. Brown, 38, Sept. 20
Tresa Williams, 38, Sept. 29
Kearnard T. Bowling, 38, Oct. 17
Javis J. Turner, 20, Oct. 29
Desi A. Thompson, 29, Dec. 6
Michael M. Mitchell, 30, Dec. 23
Reginale N. Lee, 19, Dec. 31.
Source: Richmond Police Department