Neighborhood was already dangerous
By Gary Popp
Published in News on March 20, 2011 1:50 AM
Renada McLamb holds a picture of her daughter Princess Shelby King on the spot where she discovered Princess shot by a stray bullet.
Renada McLamb knows a type of pain she wouldn't wish on anyone, a type of pain nobody should ever have to endure.
She is a mother who has lost a child -- her 3-year-old baby who fell victim to meaningless gunfire.
Princess Shelby King, or "Poot" as she was known to those closest to her, was playing on a playground outside her housing complex when she was struck by a stray bullet at about 3 p.m. Feb. 27, one of the first Sundays of the year warm enough to bring neighbors out of their homes to enjoy the sunshine.
It was an accident made worse by the fact that the alleged shooter, Derrick Raymont Best, had been running free until his arrest Wednesday night.
But Ms. McLamb, 31, said she has received help coping with the loss of her youngest child through the support of others.
"They have been great. Between the support from my family and the community, I have been so loved and supported and cared for. Anything I need, they are there for me. It has been awesome," she said. "For a situation like this and the tragedy it was, people have been a blessing. They are keeping my spirit up."
And, she says she has learned just how many people care about her and her family, which includes her three other children ages 15, 13, and eight.
"I was very stunned at how what happened to my baby touched so many people and how so many other people were willing to come together and help me anyway they could. I am very thankful," Ms. McLamb said.
Because Princess was an unexpected baby, Ms. McLamb thought she was a special child.
"I really feel like she was an angel because she was not a planned pregnancy. She was a blessing from above," Ms. McLamb said. "She was a very loved baby. I can't recall too many times I really had to get on her. She was the sweetest baby I ever had."
She said she doesn't know why her child was taken from her, but she hopes that somehow through her death, others will live better lives.
"I asked God why he did this to me, and I get no answers," she said. "I really feel like it happened for a reason. Something is going to fall in place and show me what I am supposed to do with Princess' name. I don't know what it is yet, but it is something."
One thing Ms. McLamb does know, though, is that she wants everyone who lives in The Grand at Day Point (formerly known as Courtyard Apartments) on Day Circle to take this time to reflect on and work for the betterment of their living conditions.
"I am hoping it will be a wake-up to Courtyard residents so that they can actually say 'Enough is enough,'" Ms. McLamb said. "When are we going to finally stick together and run these people out of here? I understand it is the low-income area for people who can't afford to pay rent, but you don't have to live like that. You can clean up your community. You can make a change. It is up to them. I hope that Poot's name can stand for change in a lot of other people's lives."
She said she can remember a warm afternoon several years ago when she first moved into the housing complex and saw people firing guns while children played after school in the same area.
"Right then in my head it came somebody's child is going to get hurt out here. But God knows I didn't know it was going to be my baby," Ms. McLamb said.
Ms. McLamb said it was the frequent shootings and killings that had her making an effort to relocate her family.
"That is why I was trying my hardest to get out of there. That is why I was going back to school. And when I realized the two-year college thing wasn't working, I went for certified nursing assistant," Ms. McLamb said.
Ms. McLamb was scheduled to graduate from a CNA course in April, but after losing Princess she missed too many classes, making her ineligible to complete the course. She is uncertain if she will retake it later this year.
After a shooting resulted in a man being killed at The Grand last year, police presence was improved, Ms. McLamb said, but she doesn't feel like it has helped.
"They tried to get more security, but what use is the police sitting backed up by the office. They only see when people come in and out. How is that really helping?" she said. "They still shoot their guns. They still shoot everybody."
She said the police position themselves near the front office of the complex, and that she thinks they could provide much more protection if they moved farther into the housing development.
"If they want to post up, they need to back up in front of the 1600 building and sit. You can see everything because that is where all the drug activity is going on," she said.
Ms. McLamb said law enforcement officials too often only see who is driving in and out of the community, not those who are the community's truly dangerous residents and visitors.
"They can still come through the holes (in the fence). They can come through the cuts through the back. They can walk up the paths. So, really, what good is that going to be?" she said. "Sitting at the front office don't do nothing. You are just seeing who is coming and going."
Ms. McLamb said the frequency of gunshots in the Courtyard Apartments depends on the weather.
"They only come out when the weather is pretty. During the summertime, they're rolling. You are liable to hear (gunshots) every night in the summertime," she said.
But, she said, when gunshots are heard at night, it doesn't always mean anybody is actually being shot at.
"Now if you hear them during the daytime, then they are shooting at somebody," Ms. McLamb said.
Ms. McLamb has a lot of frustration toward city and county officials, whom she said are partly to blame for the violent outbursts.
Best was charged with the 2008 attempted murder of Alicia Griffin, a charge for which he posted bond and has since been free, save a short 2009 jail stay for misdemeanor parole violations.
"I don't understand how you let a man who already had the same charge, or close to the same charge, out. I mean, if the jail is crowded, why don't you let people with petty, little charges out? Why would you even give a person like that a bond to come back and do it again three years later?," Mrs. McLamb said. "It takes him killing my baby for them to really want to do something to him? It doesn't make sense."
Still, grieving the recent death of her daughter, Ms. McLamb is looking for proper justice, not revenge.
"I did forgive (Best) because I knew it was an accident. I saw the shooting." Ms. McLamb said. "At the same time, he don't deserve to be free."
Since the loss of her daughter, Ms. McLamb has moved out of The Grand and into a house. She is currently considering taking a job and moving to another part of the state.
Princess' father was contacted, but chose not to comment, saying he is grieving the death of his daughter.