Spurred by slayings, Robeson County wages a fight against gangs

“This is not the same kid you had 20 years ago,” Robeson County Gang Investigator Jose Hernandez says. “This 12-year-old will kill you.”

The funeral for 16-year-old DaQuan “Mucci” Stephens starts with a song:

“People are dying everywhere, drugs are taking them away. People are crying all around, a solution must be found…”

DaQuan’s body lies in the center of the Fairmont High School gymnasium, hidden under the lid of a coffee-colored coffin.

Sylvia Stephens sits up front, near the box bearing her boy. A sea of anguished faces surrounds her.

“Gangs are destroying all our schools, no more interest in the golden rule,”the singer sings.”They took prayer out of the class, tell me how long will it last?”

DaQuan died seven days earlier, on March 22. Police say he was shot repeatedly on a Fairmont basketball court by a 16-year-old Lumberton boy. No one seems to know exactly why. The two had never even met. Police say the Lumberton boy is a gang member. They suspect DaQuan was, too.

“Yes, there is hope, Lord, there is hope,”the singer sings.”There is hope for all, there is hope; as long as Jesus is alive, yes, there is hope …”

Sleep apnea and stress keep 44-year-old Jose Hernandez awake at night.

Doctors have told him to quit his job as the Robeson County sheriff’s sole gang investigator.

“It’s going to kill you,” Hernandez says they warn.


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