Richmond family grieves for 4 dead sons

August 18, 2009 7:21:13 PM PDT
Gun violence has rocked the streets of Richmond this year, but one family, in particular, has seen nearly half a generation of young men killed in Richmond.

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"He got shot on January 22 and I know he died on January 28," said Arlinda Love.

Love's son Maurice was the first boy born into this family and the first in a generation of sons to be killed on the streets of Richmond.

It was 1983. The 15-year-old star athlete was on riding on the back of a scooter when a gunman walked up and shot him in the head.

"He lived for four or five days and I remember the doctor had came to talk to me and said Maurice, you know, he's brain dead," said Love.

Bette Ferguson's oldest son, Leon, was next. He was standing in a crowd of people when someone fired into it, and he was hit.

"April 27, 1992. He was murdered... it was a Monday evening," said Ferguson.

Seven years later, her second son Deon was killed as he sat in a car outside his girlfriend's house. This mother was left childless.

"It's something that you never, never [get over]. You know you can be strong. I'd be at my shop curling hair sometimes and it hit me like it just happened," said Ferguson.

Just as this family was attempting to heal, last month violence struck again. Now, between these three sisters, there are four dead sons -- nearly half of the males in one generation.

"I was trying to just ask him to 'Stay, just wait. The ambulance was coming. Please stay. Please stay.' And I don't know. He was looking up at me like he was trying to but he didn't he couldn't," said Tamara Brantley.

Brantley's 18-year-old son was caught in recent string of deadly shootings that brought Richmond's homicide rate to 33 so far this year. It happened right outside her front door.

Police say at least two armed gunmen approached the car that Willie Brantly was sitting in and fired more than 100 rounds into it. A month later they still haven't made any arrests and they don't have any suspects.

Ruby Timmons understands her daughters' grief all too well. One of her own daughter's was also a victim of gun violence -- she was shot in the 80s by a jealous boyfriend. After years in the hospital, she too died.

But this mother, connected to her daughters in a bond of sadness, never lets them see her cry.

"I feel like I have to be strong for them. I'm trying to teach them that you can make it. You can take it," said Timmons. When she is home by herself, sometimes all those lost faces become too much. "Sometimes you cry. Sometimes you wonder why, but you thank God that he brought you through it."

They all still wonder why -- why their family? Why their sons?

"I'm so scared. I don't let them go or nothing," said Brantley.

And for those sons who remain? they pray.

Police never charged anyone in the death of these four sons, even though family members and authorities know who the killers are. They say it's because no witnesses ever came forward.

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