Herald editorial: York County’s difficult task of stemming violence

Both Ja’Terreon Thorne, left, and E’monnie Dixon, were only 17 when they were shot and killed in separate incidents over the weekend.
Both Ja’Terreon Thorne, left, and E’monnie Dixon, were only 17 when they were shot and killed in separate incidents over the weekend. Provided photos

York County was rocked by the violent deaths of two teenagers over the weekend. But again, residents also were confronted with a familiar sense of helplessness, the realization that there is no obvious solution for preventing these senseless deaths.

Both victims, Ja’Terreon Thorne and E’monnie Dixon, were only 17. Thorne was a student at Northwestern High School, while Dixon attended Rock Hill High.

She was the mother of a 2-month-old boy.

The word “senseless” is commonly used in regard to deaths such as these, but in both cases, the word clearly applies. Thorne reportedly was with two friends in his backyard Saturday night when a gun they were fooling around with discharged and the bullet hit him in the chest, fatally wounding him.

One of the friends, Robreece Pickett, 20, of Rock Hill, who reportedly was handling the gun when it went off, was charged with involuntary manslaughter and unlawful carrying of a weapon.

Dixon had the common misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time when guns were present. She was in a home in York near where a party had just broken up when someone yelled at young people still lingering in the neighborhood, telling them to go home. That challenge or some other argument – police don’t know yet – prompted gunfire.

One of the bullets hit Dixon in the back. EMS workers tried to help her but she died soon after arriving at Piedmont Medical Center.

In Thorne’s case, there is no mystery to be solved other than where the gun came from. His parents said they didn’t know, adding that they had no guns in their home.

In Dixon’s case, police say they are getting good information from members of the community and those present at the site of the shooting, which occurred in the early morning hours of Sunday. We can be thankful for that, at least. The willingness of witnesses and others with information about what happened to talk with police is essential to finding the shooters.

While there are no simple answers to ending the violence, a combination of things might help reduce it. Community cooperation with police is among the most crucial – not only in solving crimes but also in preventing them in the first place.

We hear all too often that more guns make people safer. That wasn’t the case in the deaths of Thorne and Dixon. They both would be alive today if not for the casual and careless use of guns.

The prevalence of guns among hot-tempered young people is often brushed aside as an inevitable fact of modern life that we must simply accept. But when minor grievances escalate so quickly into gun battles, innocent people die in the crossfire, as Dixon’s sad case illustrates.

Communities should not be forced to accept routine gun violence as a fact of life they can do nothing about. We need more effective gun laws and better enforcement of those laws.

We also need better parenting, better supervision of young people, more access to safer organized recreational activities, more economic opportunities for young people and greater community involvement in reducing the causes of violence.

Those, of course, are the standard solutions spouted time and again. They are the fallback responses to a problem that seems beyond our control.

But if there are other, more evident and more effective ways to stem the violence, we are not aware of them. The notions of better parenting, more community involvement and giving kids safer things to do may be timeworn, but they also can be effective.

For now, we simply need to work harder at the methods that might not prevent every act of violence but which might prevent a few of the needless deaths such as those of Ja’Terreon Thorne and E’monnie Dixon.