01/27/13 — GPD: All calls are equal

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GPD: All calls are equal

By John Joyce and Kenneth Fine
Published in News on January 27, 2013 1:50 AM

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Goldsboro police investigate a shooting on Seymour Drive. Investigators placed large tarps over the scene so the body would not be seen by the community.

Goldsboro police say they followed department procedures in dealing with a shooting Wednesday night that left the victim's body undiscovered until the next morning.

Some residents of the community where the body of Shabazz Arness Woods, 18, was found have complained that police did not thoroughly investigate the reports of shots fired around midnight the previous evening.

But police officials say officers responded properly and that the fact that several shots were fired in the same area within a few minutes helped keep officers from discovering the body as they searched for a possible shooter on the move.

The first call came at about 11:30 p.m., said Maj. Al King, who commands the police department's investigations unit. A second call came 11 seconds later, he said. The first indicated the shots were fired in the vicinity of Day Circle, King said. The second call said the shots were fired near 415 Seymour Drive.

Two patrol cars were dispatched to the area, but there was no crowd or noise from bystanders to indicate that a murder had taken place. At that point, another call came into the dispatch center indicating more shots had been fired in the vicinity of Franklin Street, next to where a throughway runs from the point that Day Circle and Seymour Homes connect. The two units converged at that scene and discussed checking the pathway between the two housing projects. But that search turned up nothing.

A fourth call came soon afterward. A subject was stopped by the officers coming out of the pathway, King said, but did not have any knowledge of the shots being fired.

Woods' body was found between 415 and 414 Seymour Drive about 7 a.m. by neighbors.

Police Chief Jeff Stewart said the officers at the scene handled the situation appropriately and that although it is regrettable that the victim wasn't found earlier during the first investigation, the officers were under the impression that they were chasing a moving shooter and not a shooting victim.

Why didn't they speak to neighbors?

King said often those who call do not want to be identified for safety reasons.

"A lot of times people who call us refuse contact with the police," King said, explaining that dispatchers ask callers if they want police to come to their door and speak to them, but that the callers often say no.

"That's the same reason they didn't walk around 415 Seymour," Stewart said. The caller reported the shots being fired behind that address, but that information was not relayed to the responding officers."

A handwritten log and audio tape of the calls are being reviewed by detectives as well as city officials in hopes of determining exactly what happened Wednesday night, the chief said.

Stewart said anyone who believes police are not doing their duty when responding to reports of shots fired are wrong.

"Tell them to come sign up for a ride along and see for themselves. And we're open to suggestions from anybody on how we can do better."

Assistant City Manager Tasha Logan said she is troubled by the fact that some residents do not believe the police, or the city, care about what happens in the parts of Goldsboro where shots being fired is commonplace.

"Of course we're concerned that there is a perception that we didn't respond. We're very concerned about that," she said, adding that the department is working to find out how the murder happened and how the perpetrator, or perpetrators, managed to escape detection.

But she cautioned that until all the facts can be ascertained, no one should rush to judgment.

"If there's something we need to address, we will," she said. "We don't want any segment of our population to feel they can't call us. That's why we're requesting the (tapes). We do want to make sure that we responded appropriately.

"We clearly are looking at it, and I don't want residents to feel like because they live in a certain area of town their problems are less of a concern, because they aren't."