‘This is just too much’

Published 7:48 am Saturday, January 24, 2009

FRANKLIN—In the past two weeks, three people have been victims of gun violence within Franklin’s city limits. One is dead, another lays in a hospital bed in serious condition, and the third may never completely see out of one eye for the rest of his life.

The rash of violence has citizens concerned.

Franklin native Lisa Little drove in from North Carolina on Friday after receiving the news that her nephew Brad “Pug” Harris had been shot to death earlier that morning.

“This is just too much,” Little said. “My sister’s husband was paralyzed after being shot here in Franklin not that long ago. It wasn’t like this when I was growing up here in Franklin.”

Little’s mother, Virginia, also a Franklin native, made the trip from North Carolina with her daughter.

“This is becoming very dangerous. I have grandchildren who still live here. I’m scared for them. These people seem like they are on a rampage now. They need to stop the shooting. Innocent people are being hurt for nothing,” she said.

Robert Lyons, who owns several businesses with his two brothers along the city’s South Street corridor, said he’s been keeping a closer eye on activities near his shops.

“We have instituted a community crime watch,” Lyons said, pointing to several security cameras posted to keep surveillance over the area.

“But we don’t just do that. We take people off the street who are gang members and drug dealers and minister to them,” Lyons said. “Until their hearts change, the violence won’t stop.”

Lyons said he believes police are trying their best to do a good job, but it’s up the community to do the rest.

“I believe Chief (Phil) Hardison is one of the best gentlemen we have had to combat crime in Franklin,” he said. “To my understanding he has been very productive, but (the community) has to do its part.”

Interim City Manager June Fleming agreed.

“Chief Hardison can’t solve all the issues. The police aren’t called until after something happens,” she said. “Crime is not going to be stopped by them. The police depend on the community to do what it can.”

Fleming said people need to take responsibility for their own communities. One way is for citizens to volunteer to help at-risk youth who might choose violent paths if no one intervenes.

“Franklin is the type of community that depends on a lot of joint efforts to be successful,” Fleming said. “Perhaps some sort of recreational program aimed at the kids may be the answer to stopping some of the problems.”

Two weeks ago, after 20-year-old Rudy Maddox of Franklin was shot in the face while attending a party, the realization that violence in the city is not an exclusive club reserved for criminals made some feel they should do more.

“Hearing the news about Rudy really got to me,” said Frank Davis, director of the Franklin Department of Parks and Recreation. “He’s a good kid. He isn’t the type to get into trouble.”

Davis said more needs to be done.

“I see these kids and they are looking for something to do,” he said. “If they don’t, they will end up in trouble.”

Maddox agreed to be photographed by The Tidewater News so people could see how gun violence can easily destroy lives.

“The way I look at life now is totally different. I could have died that night for no reason. I definitely won’t take anything for granted anymore,” Maddox said.

Maddox’s grandmother, Dorothy Bell, said she won’t either — and has decided to take action to stop such violent acts from happening again.

“ I don’t want what happened to Rudy to happen to anybody else’s child. Our children can’t even go to a birthday party without risking their lives,” Bell said.

Bell intends to organize a march as a demonstration to violent offenders that the citizens intend to take their community back.

“Right now, people are scared to walk the streets. We’ve got to do something about this,” she said.

Police Chief Hardison could not be reached for comment.

Police say there are no new developments in the investigation of the Maddox shooting and that they are still looking for witnesses who might have information.

Anyone with information about this crime is asked to call Franklin Crime Stoppers at 562-8599. Information is kept confidential and the caller could earn a cash reward of up to $1,000 if the information leads to an arrest.