Columbia Slayings Spur Online Clash Over Social Divisions, Crime
One online poster: “It’s a case of the haves vs. the havenots.”
A debate has broken out among Columbia residents about possible causes for recent homicides–-two within a day and three within the last two months—with many saying they were worried about crime.
On Monday night, Nichole Bernadette McNair, 42, of Baltimore was found shot in the 8700 block of Hayshed Lane in Long Reach and yesterday police found Philip Edward Wise, 46, stabbed in the parking lot of an apartment complex in the 5500 block of Harper’s Farm Road. Both were pronounced dead at Howard County General Hospital.
Dominique Davon McDonald, 21, is charged in McNair’s death. Police said she was trying to collect bond money from him. Police have also charged Anthony Patrick Parker in Wise’s death.
“I think the Section 8 people have been the ones coming down here and bringing the drama, and it’s giving Columbia a bad reputation,” said Long Reach resident Tiffany Bristow, who lived in the area where McNair was fatally shot. She was referring to public housing in the area.
“Landlords are not doing enough and screening potential residents,” said Bristow in an interview. She said she did not want her children to play outside at night anymore.
Other residents strongly disagreed.
A Facebook page created to reminisce about Columbia’s past often focuses on how living in this community has helped residents experience diversity unlike any other place.
The Facebook group's administrator Sekou Walker, a Columbia native who now lives in Catonsville, is among those upset by accusations that recipients of federal housing benefits are responsible for the recent high-profile crimes.
“My mom was on Section 8 when I was a kid... Not because we were poor... Anyone who knows me will tell you I didn’t want for [anything.],” he wrote on his group, “You Know You Grew Up in Columbia Md When.” “But it's hard out there being a single mom, trying to raise your child to do something positive with their life, while you work two jobs just to make sure that child has all the necessities of life without having to resort to illegal activities.”
Walker’s Facebook response came after one poster said, in reference to the two homicides this week: “It’s a case of the haves vs. the havenots.”
Dorothy Moore, who also lives in the neighborhood where McNair was killed, is among those concerned. She said she has lived there since 1982 and said when she first moved to the area, including where McNair was shot, it was peaceful.
“I believe Columbia is fast becoming a larger city and a camouflage for drugs, because that’s what I thought when I heard about this incident,” Moore said in an interview. “Not all of the people involved in [drug-related crimes] are Section 8, but this place has changed in 15 years.”
Some residents of Harper’s Choice, where Wise was fatally stabbed, echoed worries about safety in Columbia.
“I don’t feel like this area is safe,” said Maki Abdullah, 36, of Harper’s Choice. “I moved here in 2005, but after 2005 it was not safe anymore.”
A Harper’s Choice resident who asked to only be identified by her first name, Esther, said: “For me, I’m seeing some funny people around here everywhere, and when you see them you are scared. … “They are these bad boys coming down from Baltimore.”
Others in Harper’s Choice said they were not unnerved by the two homicides.
“I feel safe here and I’ve lived here a long time,” said Mina Eiselstein, 32, in an interview. “This is only the second murder I’ve heard about in a long time.”
Fares Kurdy, 32, agreed.
“I still feel pretty safe,” he said.
Wise’s death Tuesday is the fourth homicide of the year in Columbia and Howard County, the same number of homicides as in all of 2010.
Columbia became a city in 1967. According to the Columbia Archives, it is unique in its development, due to efforts to become integrated before the Fair Housing Act of 1968 made it illegal to discriminate in housing based on race, color, national origin or religion.