Police investigate fourth murder in Gastonia community since May

GASTONIA, N.C. — Police are investigating a shooting where a man died in Gastonia early Tuesday morning, they said.

Officers went to Rankin Avenue at about 1:30 a.m. because someone called 911 saying a man was lying in their driveway. EMS rushed the Keenen Dangelo Banner, 31, of Shelby, who had been shot, to the hospital, where he later died.

Neighbor James Judge said he and his wife heard gunfire and heard someone calling out for help.

“I was about to drift off to sleep and heard some more ‘pow, pow, pow,’ and heard seemingly like someone had cried out,” Judge said.

There have been six murders in Gastonia this year. The homicide on Tuesday is the fourth that has happened in the Highland Community, and all four happened in the months of May and June.

In May, a 19-year-old allegedly shot two people on Westwood Circle, killing one of them. Also in May, detectives said a man was killed in a shooting on Rankin Avenue -- about a block away Tuesday’s shooting. The suspect in the case was arrested in a standoff. In mid-June, a 17-year-old was charged after a man was shot and killed near a gas station off Highway 321.

“Death after death after death occur, just in this little, small vicinity,” Judge said. “Our hearts grieve even now to know that you have heard, so much, that you become desensitized that there’s another one.”

“This is the worst that I have seen it,” Rev. Greg Floyd, Gaston County Progressive Coalition.

Floyd said ministers who are part of Gaston County’s Progressive Coalition are meeting next week to work on ways to address this issue. “Put boots on the ground and help us be able to talk to these young men.”

The director of Erwin Center, the community center in the heart of the Highland community, is building a local group of 101 Black Men to help mentor young men.

“(To) get these boys off the streets,” director George Fullwood said. “Go knock on drug dealers’ doors and tell them about educational opportunities.”

Gastonia City Councilman Charles Odom lives in Highland and said they need community engagement before teens become suspects or victims.

“We need groups,” Odom said. “We need churches. We need anybody who can speak to that group of people.”

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