Families of homicide victims speak out on loss, violence in Memphis

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A woman’s fiancé was murdered two weeks before their wedding. Another woman is now caring for her grandson after her child was shot and killed.

Memphis has experienced a record number of homicides this year. WREG’s Jessica Gertler took a look at how those homicides are impacting families.

“I miss him a lot,” said Karen Guevara. Her fiancé, Cameron Dickson, became this year’s 229th homicide victim on Sept. 20. 

Karen Guevara’s fiancé, Cameron Dickson, became this year’s 229th homicide victim on Sept. 20. 

It was 6:30 that evening, she remembered. They were in their Hickory Hill house watching a game. 

Her kids were outside playing when a neighbor’s camera captured a car speeding down Rocky Park. The kids said they had to jump out of the way.

“The guy came back and parked right in front of our yard. Was just waiting outside,” Guevara said. “So my fiancé came outside to see what was the issue.”

Video shows Dickson confronting the man in the car. When he turned around to walk back inside, the man in the car shot him twice in the back.

“I ran outside to try to help him breathe,” Guevara said. “He couldn’t breathe anymore. You know, I kept telling him to stay with me.”

When police pulled up, they told her he was gone.

Police later arrested Cedric Crawford and charged him with first-degree murder, but didn’t say what triggered him.

“I’m really angry,” Guevara said. “He took my kid’s father. He took my soul mate from me. I’m really angry.”

She was set to marry her soul mate just two weeks later.

Police Director Michael Rallings has warned for months that pandemic-induced stress has created the perfect storm.

In August, he and top brass worried Memphis would hit 300 homicides by the end of the year if nothing was done. This month, the mayor reported the murder rate is up 63 percent compared to this time last year.

“It goes back to the four things that I’ve talked about for the last four years: gangs, guns, drugs and domestic violence,” Rallings said.

WREG took a closer look at the homicides through September.

There were 230. Of those, 205 were murder, 17 were justified and the rest were negligence or the victim died this year, but the incident happened a previous year.

Most homicides occurred on Sunday, then Monday or Thursday.

The victims are mostly men (87%) and African American (89%). A majority of the victims were between 18 and 30 years old.

Toya Taylor lost her son Demetrice Driver Jr. on July 23.

Police say Driver and his fiancé Allison Shinall were in their apartment on Santa Monica in Whitehaven when someone came in and shot them both in the head.

Driver was 23 years old and his fiancé just 21. No one has been arrested.

Allison Shinall and Demetrice Driver hold their newborn.

“I pray a lot, because I don’t even know how to heal. I don’t know how to begin to heal. Losing a child is nothing like losing a friend, a parent or cousin,” Taylor said. “Sometimes I can’t even make it through the hour without breaking down and crying or flipping through pictures.”

Taylor said her son was the life of the party, selfless and easy going. He had been in trouble in the past, but was trying to do better, she said.

Especially for his children — he had a 4-year-old son, his fiancé also had a young child, and the two just had a baby.

“It’s generations. Generations that is being affected,” Taylor said.

She said in order to stop the violence, communities need to “go back to being communities.” The city shouldn’t become numb to the problem.

“People look over it. I was guilty of that,” Taylor said. “I think of so many times that I saw something that just didn’t feel right. I didn’t do anything. Now I’m begging for people who noticed something that maybe didn’t seem right to just come forward.”

Taylor is still asking people to come forward if they know anything about her son’s murder.

The mayor recently reported Crime Stoppers tips are down 10 percent and they need people to speak up to help families find justice.

Related: Memphis breaks 2016 record with 230 homicides

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