Raleigh mass shooting vigil was ‘a step’ toward healing


Raleigh shooting coverage

Seven people were shot in Raleigh, NC, near the Neuse River Greenway Trail. Five were killed, including a Raleigh police officer. Check back for the latest updates from The N&O’s breaking news team.

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During a weekend of memorial services for those killed in Raleigh’s mass shooting, there was also a step toward healing. Community, city and state leaders gathered in downtown Raleigh for a vigil on Sunday to remember the victims and issue a call to action.

Mary Marshall, 34, was one of the five people killed in the Raleigh mass shooting on Oct. 13 in the Hedingham neighborhood.

Her fiance, Robert Steele, spoke before more than 100 people gathered outside in front of the Memorial Auditorium on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Marshall was loving and happy, her fiance said. She was also loud and stubborn, “especially when she was right, which she was most of the time.”

“Mary had extremely high standards for the people that she let into her circle,” Steele said. “She didn’t take crap from anyone. To be a friend of hers, your soul had to be as good as hers.”

In the tragedy’s aftermath, the Hedingham community has pulled together to help those who lost someone as well as each other, he said.

“Meal trains have been set up. Random visits are being made. New connections are being formed,” Steele said. “In addition to Hedingham, we’re all receiving words of encouragement from across the city, the state, the country and even around the world.

This is how we heal. Pull together. Talk to your neighbors. Learn something new about them. Invite them over, get to know each other. Hold events together. Walk your dogs together. Exchange phone numbers and check on each other. Not just today, or tomorrow, but every day.”

Steele acknowledged that much grief still lay ahead, but he expressed confidence in the community to get him through it.

“I know I have dark days coming,” he said. “It’s inevitable. But I also know that I’ll get through them because my community, my friends and my family will be there for me.

“This is how we heal. Be someone’s favorite place.”

Robert Steele, the fiancé of Mary Marshall, one of the victims of the mass shooting in the Hedingham neighborhood, speaks during a vigil for shooting victims on Sunday, October 23, 2022 on Lichtin Plaza at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in Raleigh, N.C. Robert Willett

The four other people who were killed in the tragedy were Gabriel Torres, 29; James Thompson, 16; Nicole Connors, 52; and Susan Karnatz, 49. Connors’ husband, Tracey Howard, was also at the vigil Sunday, but did not speak and left before the event ended. Funerals and celebrations of life have been held for Torres, Thompson and Karnatz in the past few days.

Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin urged people to keep their “families in your heart, not just today, or even next week, but in the months and years to come. Because that is the time when they will need our support most.”

Abby Moe, center, listens as Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin honors the victims of the mass shooting that killed five people on October 13, 2022 in the Hedingham neighborhood, during a vigil on Sunday, October 23, 2022 on Lichtin Plaza at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in Raleigh, N.C. Robert Willett

Cooper, Baldwin make calls to action

Baldwin said that she had prayed every night that Raleigh would not be the place of a mass shooting.

“And yet here we all are standing together on this beautiful fall day,” she said, “for the singular purpose of remembering and honoring the five people whose lives were tragically lost, the two victims who were injured and the thousands of people who are hurting as a result, including friends and family.”

Gov. Roy Cooper called on the General Assembly to act on gun reform legislation.

“I and many people here proposed common sense changes that we can make to keep our schools, our stores, our churches, our streets safer, from red flag laws to stronger background checks to banning weapons of war that do not belong outside of the battlefield,” Cooper said.

Cooper is a Democrat, and those in the audience included Wake County lawmakers who are Democrats, as well as U.S. Rep. David Price and U.S. Rep. Deborah Ross.

Cooper also advocated for safe gun storage and said he has vetoed legislation that would loosen gun laws. A bill that passed the House but stalled in the Senate would fund a gun safe storage awareness campaign, The News & Observer previously reported. It might be the only common ground that lawmakers of both parties have had thus far on recent gun bills. The legislature is majority Republican, and the 2021 firearm storage awareness bill was sponsored by Republican Sen. Bobby Hanig of Currituck County, who was then in the House.

“We’re pushing forward with this firearm safe storage campaign, even though the legislation funding it hasn’t passed yet,” Cooper said Sunday. “When we own guns, we must keep them safe.”

Cooper urged people to “never ever” forget the people killed in Raleigh on Oct. 13.

“We can never normalize the slaughter of innocent people even as it keeps happening again and again and again,” he said. “Especially because it keeps happening again and again and again. We cannot and we should not. We should never be the same.”

Gerald Givens Jr., president of the Raleigh-Apex Chapter of the NAACP, which organized the vigil, said city and state leaders have had to take “hard but necessary steps towards healing for us.”

“Whether we’re a first responder, second or third responder, it is all a part of the healing journey,” he said. Givens said you can’t heal without turning hope into action.

“I’m still hopeful that we can end this epidemic. What I’m saying to all of you today is you are not alone. Don’t isolate yourself and think you have to carry this hurt, and a giant weight of loss on your own,” Givens said.

He added that many steps will take time: “You may not be ready for healing right now. But maybe you’re still in anger or in disbelief. But that’s OK.”

Hedingham residents listen to remarks by Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin during a vigil for the Hedingham mass shooting victims on Sunday, October 23, 2022 on Lichtin Plaza at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in Raleigh, N.C. Robert Willett

The vigil on Sunday, Givens said, is a step toward it.

This story was originally published October 23, 2022 6:34 PM.

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Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan covers North Carolina state government and politics at The News & Observer. She previously covered Durham, and has received the McClatchy President’s Award, N.C. Open Government Coalition Sunshine Award and several North Carolina Press Association awards, including for politics and investigative reporting.

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