NORFOLK, Va. – A mourning community is broken and shattered by the senseless gun violence that tore through Young Terrace Wednesday evening.
“We cried together,” said neighbor Cheryl Thorpe. “Everybody was out here crying and crying.”
The painful images on Whitaker Lane are seared in Thorpe’s mind.
“I started walking down here, and when I got to right there, I just saw three bodies,” she said. “Just three bodies laying right there. Right there, no sheets on them. Nothing - just laying there dead. Everybody was around, and one person said, ‘Well, he just shot them all.’ He just shot them all; just shot them all and they were dead.”
Three women were shot dead and two other women were hurt.
Norfolk Police said 19-year-old Ziontay Palmer is responsible for killing Nicole Lovewine, 45; her partner Detra Brown, 42; and their neighbor Sara Costine, 44.
Two other women, ages 39 and 19, are now healing from their wounds. That teen’s mother, News 3 is told, is Nicole Lovewine. She was a bystander who was shot and killed as she tried to protect her daughter from the gunfire.
Police said the disturbing scene is a domestic violence incident. Neighbors told News 3 Palmer was dating the 19-year-old who’s pregnant.
Clayton Marquez with Stop the Violence Guns Down wants to be part of the solution.
“Sometime(s) they be crying for help,” Marquez said. “I don’t know what his situation was, but a lot of times that’s the case. They be crying out for help, and we don’t understand when someone’s crying out for help that they may need to talk to somebody about certain things they might be going through.”
Marquez believes there needs to be more community engagements to reach out to young people to keep them from turning to violence. He also said more money needs to be pumped into neighborhoods for more activities and positive reinforcement.
“They got the recreation centers closed,” he said. “The children can’t come out and play. Even when you go to the pools and different places like that, you have to pay now. There’s no more free lunches out here, and it’s just kind of hard out here due to COVID.”
Chief Larry Boone vowed for change Thursday. He returned to the street where the tragedy unfolded and where a growing memorial now sits.
People were stopping by the site of the shooting all day, bringing balloons and leaving messages. Some people said they didn’t know the women but felt compelled to come by and show support.
Neighbors like Haywood Odom Jr. and his wife brought stuffed animals and flowers. He remembered the victims.
“They never mess with nobody,” Odom said. “They used to go to work, come back from work and just chill out and go sit on their porch. Then, whenever I come out the door, they start waving. They would wave at me and my wife, [say], 'Hey.' They were good people. They going to be missed.”
Candles were lit for the three women who are now gone but not forgotten.
“I’m so sorrowful for the family; I pray to God that they’ll be able to make it through this,” Thorpe said. “I pray to God it’s the last time anything like that happens out here because it’s not godly.”
“I know trouble’s everywhere, but we hope and pray that things can get better,” he said.
Chief Boone said it’s going to take years and the entire community to stem the tide of gun violence.
Palmer faces murder charges and remains behind bars without bond.
Friends of Sara Costine have set up a GoFundMe to help her children who are now left without a mother. To donate, click here.
The domestic violence community is also showing support.
Neisha Himes, who is a survivor, advocate and the founder of G.R.O.W. Foundation, sent a statement expressing her condolences for the women.
The statement read, “This incredibly heartbreaking situation is yet another reminder of the devastating impact domestic violence has on its victims, their families, and the community as a whole. We cannot afford to turn a blind eye and pretend domestic violence does not affect us when it’s happening in the homes of our loved ones, our neighbors, classmates, and colleagues. We can no longer choose to be reactive instead of proactive. We have to come together to make a difference, and now. Lives depend on it.”
Himes’s statement went on to say, “My sincere condolences are with the families and community affected by this tragedy.”
If you are in an abusive relationship and need help, here are some resources:
Related: Neighbors, community activists plead for end to gun violence after Norfolk shooting leaves 3 women dead