“A ray of light.” How a Wake County town honored two victims of gun violence
Nancy Taylor, known in her neighborhood as “Grandma,” loved to pray and sing while she walked her dog, Denny.
She also loved her younger neighbor, Gabrielle Raymond, who lived nearby. Raymond took care of Taylor when she was sick and provided a listening ear.
As a crowd of 50 people gathered silently behind Apex Town Hall on Monday to honor the two women killed two weeks ago, their friendship was held up as an example to be remembered and repeated.
“We need more people talking to their neighbors and paying attention to what’s happening outside their walls,” said Doug Stride, pastor of Hope Community Church in Apex, where Taylor was a member.
Taylor, 69, and Raymond, 37, were shot to death on January 15 in front of Raymond’s home in the South Walk Townhomes neighborhood, about two miles from the vigil.
Mourners on Monday also wanted to show their support for the families of the women who sat on black chairs facing two tables, each bearing a picture of the women.
Each attendee was handed a small white candle to light at the end of the ceremony, signifying “a reminder that even in our darkest moments, there is always a glimmer of light,” said Capt. Crystal Wenzel of the Apex Police Department.
The tragedy that rocked the small Wake County town two weeks ago remains under investigation. Police did not announce the motive behind the shooting.
Harry Hardman, a 37-year-old retired Army captain and South Walk resident, was arrested and charged with murder and animal cruelty for shooting his dog, according to police. He is being held in jail without bail and faces the death penalty if convicted.
“You stole from us”
Taylor moved to Apex from Georgia three years ago to be closer to her grandchildren.
“I’ve been to every baseball game they’ve played and been involved in their lives here,” Stride said. “She always wanted to be the grandmother who was there and present.”
Raymond’s friend, Laura Franke, said she wasn’t the type to “light up a room” because she “could light up your heart and your life.”
“Gabrielle was never looking for attention or praise, despite her frequent acts of selflessness, kindness, creativity and love,” Frankie said, holding back tears. “Her smile and laugh were contagious. Her love for her family and friends was evident in her daily life, even more evident during holidays, birthdays, vacation, or really, any special occasion.
Frankie said Raymond loved her life, her friends, her family and her job. She was working at RTI International in Durham at the time of her death.
A week after the shooting, Apex police released 911 calls from neighbors who witnessed the incident. A neighbor who called 911 to report Hardman’s behavior before the shooting said he was screaming at the sky and pacing back and forth while holding a pool cue. The caller reported seeing Taylor talking to Hardman before the shots rang out.
When Hardman, a former real estate agent, was arrested, he was carrying an AR-15-style rifle, according to police.
Police said a weapon was not used in the shooting, but a search warrant said four guns were seized from his Brussels Drive home — three Glocks and a Benelli — as well as a Dell laptop. It is believed that one of the Glock rifles was the weapon used.
Franke described the incident as “a life cut short by a deliberate act of unnecessary violence.”
“We didn’t lose (Raymond), she was stolen from us,” she said. “Having to grieve a death that didn’t have to be is the hardest part of all.”
Apex Police Chief Jason Armstrong spoke to the crowd along with Mayor Jack Gilbert and Kevin O’Brien, pastor of Apex Baptist Church.
Armstrong was the police chief in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014 when police and residents clashed after an officer shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown. Armstrong thanked the Apex police officers who responded to the scene on Jan. 15, saying he looks for officers who have the “heart and mind of a guardian.”
“But someone with the courage of a warrior,” he said. “There is nothing worse than any community being in a time of need when you need warriors, and finding out you don’t have warriors.”
Wenzel, one of the organizers of the vigil and director of the police department’s criminal investigation division, said officers who responded to the calls were talking with counselors about their experiences and were trained to handle such cases.
As for the families of the victims, she has been working closely with them to guide them through the criminal justice process. I tried to answer any of their questions.
“The day after the incident, we met with both families individually so they could see and get to know the investigator and the victim advocate and make sure we were visible to them literally 24 hours a day,” Wenzel said.
The city lit up the water tower on Hunter Street purple to show solidarity with the community.
The families of Raymond and Taylor will honor them with funerals and celebrations over the next few weeks. A ceremony is scheduled for Hope Community Church on February 15 for Taylor.