UPDATED: Homicide rate slows over final half of 2015

Published 9:08 pm Saturday, January 2, 2016

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to include a homicide on Dec. 31.

It looked like Selma and Dallas County would enter 2016 without a murder in almost six full months, but that all changed on New Year’s Eve when 44-year-old Mary Whatley was shot and killed.

Whatley’s murder was the tenth of the year in Dallas County, meaning the homicide rate didn’t change from 2014 when there were also 10 murders.

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Eight of 2016’s ten homicides were worked by the Selma Police Department and the other two were investigated by the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department.

Even if he had more officers on the streets, Selma police chief John Brock said murder is a hard crime to stop. Brock said in today’s world many pull their guns at first conflict and escalate a situation instead of trying to talk it out.

“We are in the era of the gunshot. Everybody to solve their problems wants to have a gun instead of talking to somebody,” Brock said.

The first homicide of 2015 came Jan. 21 when 23-year-old Kirby Dante Brown was shot and killed walking out of his girlfriend’s house on the 700 block of Mweyne Street. Brown was out of jail on bond on an attempted murder charge from 2014.

A lethal start to 2015 continued when Crystal Johnson, 29, was found unconscious on the side of Dallas County Road 74 on Feb. 23. James Herrod, 51, was charged with murder four days after Johnson’s death for allegedly hitting her with a truck.

On March 14, Jimmy Hudgens and Taffine Berry were shot and killed on the same night, only an hour apart. Hudgens was killed when he confronted two car burglars outside of his uncle’s house on the 500 block of Dallas Avenue around 10:15 p.m.

Kendarious Brown, 21, and Devontae Jiles, 22, were arrested later that night just a block from where Hudgens was shot. Both were charged with capital murder, unlawful breaking and entering of a vehicle and attempted unlawful breaking and entering of a vehicle.

Berry and her husband were standing outside a nightclub on the 1400 block of Marie Foster Street at 11:24 p.m. when she was shot. She died three days later at a Montgomery Hospital. No arrests have been made in the case.

Police believe that the gunman was not aiming for Berry and struck her unintentionally. Brock said cases like Berry’s are becoming too common.

“People just don’t realize what they are doing when they are firing at a crowd of people,” Brock said. “They just don’t care if they hit anybody or not. They are aiming at the person they are looking for and hit the bystander.”

In April, Jimmy Wayne Griffin, 36, was found shot to death inside of a burned up trailer on Karen Street just after midnight on April 11. The Selma Fire Department responded to the scene for a residential fire but found Griffin’s body with a gunshot wound once the fire was extinguished.

During the month of May, Derrick Levon Dower, 22, was found shot to death in Orrville. According to the Selma Police Department, Dower picked up 24-year-old Raphael Muquel Clark on Martin Luther King Street and drove him until they got to the Beloit/Orrville area.

Clark demanded money and allegedly shot Dower with a pistol he wrestled away from him. Clark was charged with murder in the case.

The dangerous pace kept going in May when Jesscilus Phillips, 39, was killed during a home invasion near Craig Field on May 19. He was found shot to death in his driveway around 5:30 a.m. by a neighbor. Elijah Alfonso Harris was arrested and charged with murder in the case on Oct. 22.

In June, Charles Simpson, 51, was found shot to death on the sidewalk near the intersection of Mechanic Street and Alabama Avenue around 5:45 a.m. on June 11. He had a gunshot wound to the chest from a small caliber weapon and was found by someone passing by. No arrests have been made in the case.

The deadly start to 2015 continued on July 22 when Tobias Cooper, 26, was shot at the intersection of U.S. Highway 80 East and Roosevelt Avenue from a tan or cream colored Tahoe. No arrests have been made in the case.

At that point, the Selma Police Department and Dallas County Sheriff’s Department were on pace to work around 15 murders this year, which would’ve been the highest total over the last decade.

The pace slowed over the next six months and it looked like Selma might enter 2016 without a murder in nearly six months. 

That all changed on New Year’s Eve, when  Whatley  was shot and killed on the 1600 block of Maple Street. Whatley’s shooting is still under investigation.