The harrowing statistics of gun violence are more than numbers. Each stat is an entry point into the story of someone violently taken from their family. Every story is one of grief, loss and survival.
One mother, who only recently lost her son, is Terry Wakefield. Usually before midnight, her son, Tavegas Wakefield, 21, is already at home. Recently when he had not returned after he and some friends went to get haircuts, she thought he was just hanging out.
After falling asleep in bed, the intrusive ring of the telephone jarred her awake. Wakefield looked at the clock – 11:59 p.m. She picked up the phone. On the other end was the mother of one of her older son’s baby.
“She’s screaming into the phone,” said Wakefield. “I couldn’t understand what she was saying. She was screaming, ‘they shot him, and he’s dead.’ And now, I am fully awake. It takes a while, but I now understand her to say that my baby boy, Tavegas, was shot; and he’s dead.”
That Monday, Oct. 25, Wakefield’s life changed forever. From what police reports tell her, Tavegas and three others were riding in Tavegas’ silver Infiniti. His best friend was driving.
As they drove along Interstate 385, near the Ridgeway exit, another vehicle pulled up alongside and opened fire. The Infiniti was riddled with bullets – about 100 rounds – on the passenger’s side, according to police.
“Only my son was killed, and the passenger in the back is critically wounded,” said Wakefield. “With 100 rounds of ammunition, it sounds like they were trying to kill everybody in the car. Whether they cut this person off, or it was a random shooting, no one really knows.”
According to Wakefield, Tavegas had gotten in some trouble when he was younger, and was locked up. Freedom From Unnecessary Negatives (FFUN) Founder Stevie Moore helped him bond out and get back on the right track.
“That boy was like my own son,” said Moore. “Tavegas had paid the bond back, he had a job and was doing real well. That really hurt me when I got a call from his mother. This is really bothering me that he was killed just riding along on the interstate.”
Wakefield said Tavegas played the drums at church.
“Tavegas was working and doing what he was supposed to do,” said Wakefield. “I have worked since I was 12 years old. I put my three boys in private school, and all three graduated. I don’t know why people are so angry. We need more God-fearing parents raising these children.”
Wakefield said whoever killed her son has to know God will deal with them.
“I am terrified of being on the interstate. There have been other shootings on the interstate. The police said there are cameras, and I hope the shooting was captured on video. We’ll see. I don’t want retaliation. ‘Vengeance is mine’, said the Lord. ‘I will repay.’ I’m just giving it all to God.”
Another mother, Melissa Malone, has her own story of grief. Sherrina Cunningham Malone, the wife of her son, Jesse Malone, was killed in January. Three children mourn her death.
“Sherrina was at the laundrymat at Hickory Hill and Winchester when some guys drove up. One came in and spoke with Sherrina briefly, and she walked outside with him. She was buying drugs, but my son begged her not to do it,” said Malone.
“When Sherrina walked outside with the guy, they were talking and suddenly, one of them shot her. They rifled through her car, stealing whatever they could get their hands on.”
The case has grown cold.
“We are a close-knit family, not really a lot of us, but we are very close,” said Malone. “I have four children, 17 grandchildren, and two step-children. My son is raising two girls, 14 and 11, and his 12-year-old son. My son is broken. I am broken. But we are going to hang together.
“We are doing Thanksgiving. We will miss Sherrina. She wasn’t just my daughter-in-law, she was my friend. We continue to pray that the case gets solved.”
Anyone with information leading to the arrest of those responsible for the murder of Tavegas Wakefield, Sherrina Malone, or any other homicide case, should call CrimeStoppers at: 901-528-CASH (2274).