RICHMOND, Va. -- There were about 25 of us at the latest vigil for a Richmond homicide victim Thursday evening.
This one was for 35-year-old Naquan Bentley of Brooklyn, NY, who was gunned down this past weekend in the Swansboro neighborhood in South Side where we gathered with candles and balloons.
There were no police or high-profile activists present. The minister delivered a simple spiritual message of delivery by salvation.
On Tuesday, Richmond police arrested 54-year-old Tracey Hughes, who lived in that block, and charged him with firearms violations, including possessing a sawed-off shotgun, in connection with the slaying.
No motive for the shooting has been released.
"He wasn't just a number," said Bentley's aunt, Frances Bentley of New York, after the vigil. "He was a person of substance. He meant a lot to a lot of people, and most of all, his kids. They will never recover from this."
But he is also a number: homicide 52, compared with 31 at this time last year.
It's not like in the mid-90s here, when RVA would have 100 or more slayings by Halloween.
But the toll is enough to make city leaders, police officials and political candidates sit up and wonder what's going on.
And the numbers are absolutely soaring in other cities across the land, including Baltimore, Chicago, Washington DC, Cleveland, Dallas, St. Louis, Nashville and many others.
After years of steady declines, alarms are sounding again because many experts don't know what's going on, particularly since not all major cities are seeing the same tragic trend.
I, among others, said for years that we might see another surge in murders when the children who suffered through the deadliest years in the 90s grew up.
Could this be part of it?