published Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

Life was ‘falling into place’ for shooting victim, mother

A roadside memorial has appeared at the site of last week's shooting in the 900 block of Taylor Street.
A roadside memorial has appeared at the site of last week's shooting in the 900 block of Taylor Street.
Photo by Tim Barber.

A better life was almost within Laronda Townsend’s reach.

Townsend, who lived in Woodlawn Apartments, recently found a job. It would be enough to get health insurance for her and her 17-year-old son, Darrius.

The job at Popeye’s Chicken & Biscuits would be enough to help them move away from the hand-to-hand drug deals right out in the open, wails of sirens and the sounds of gunshots that ring through what people call the “Woodlawns.”

“Everything was falling into place,” a resigned Townsend said Monday afternoon, five days after her son was gunned down in the street during a botched robbery for drugs and money.

“There’s something going on there every day and night,” she said. “It’s been killing after killing in this neighborhood.”

Chattanooga police have not made an arrest in Darrius’ June 1 slaying. A Hamilton County medical examiner’s report released Monday shows an assailant shot him once in the head and once in the back.

Darrius was walking on Taylor Street, a dead-end street with heavy pedestrian traffic, connecting Windsor Apartments and Woodlawn Apartments to Milne Street.

On Monday, a growing pile of stuffed animals sat on the edge of the sidewalk and on a pink torn armchair. Friends of Darrius’ spraypainted messages reading, “RIP Dee.”

“This is Dee’s spot,” said 22-year-old Dominic Jones, who stood straddling his bicycle as a couple of other friends paid respects. “If you want to see Dee, you have to come here now.”

Someone knew Darrius had some marijuana on him and attempted to rob him, Townsend believes.

“They had to kill him because he knew who they was,” she said, sitting at a family member’s home amid roses and sympathy cards.

Darrius, like many teens his age, was learning his way in the world the hard way. His mother was out of work. He had a 3-year-old son named after him. He knew they needed money to live.

“He always said, ‘Momma, I’m going to take care of you. We’re going to be all right. We’re going to do this together,’” she said, noting that he recently began doing custodial work at an office.

He had two charges pending in court, one for an aggravated robbery charge in November and one for cocaine possession in February, according to court records.

Townsend said her son was innocent on the robbery charge, but the cocaine possession he admitted to.

“He tried to take matters into his own hands and be a man,” she said. “He didn’t have to do that. That’s why I work for. ... He got the charges and it was a wake-up call. I told him he was going to be 18. ‘You’ve got to start taking care of your son.’”

Townsend received the news that he’d been shot when her 21-year-old daughter called. His mother made her way to the scene and saw his red-and-white shoe lying in the street. A police officer kept her back from her son.

“He was still alive. He was calling out, ‘Momma,’” Townsend said as tears rolled down her face. “He was shaking his leg. He was talking to me and I was talking to him.”

Townsend is accepting donations for Darrius’ funeral expenses at a bank account set up under his name at the SunTrust branch on Brainerd Road. She said she hopes to one day start a foundation to prevent violence and help the grieving family members of homicide victims.

“You have a child,” she said, thinking of her son. “That’s my soul.”

Contact staff writer Beth Burger at or 423-757-6406.

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Legend said...

Ms. Townsend, did you know your 17 year old son was walking around with weed on him before or after his death? If before, you're complicit to his murder. Walking around with weed in a druggy and high crime area is as dangerous, more so, than walking around flashing a wad of greenbacks in same.

At the age of 16 I was bringing in a paycheck, legally earned, to help out with my parentS family expenses. By the age of 17 I was working and living on my own. While still living at home and bringing in a paycheck, I often rewarded my younger siblings with allowances for doing chores around the house.

It just shows you don't have to commit illegal acts just to bring in the bacon. The work may not be always what you want at the salary and conditions you like, but it's a start. At times there will be setbacks. However, from that humble start you can only move upward. Plus you won't have to always be looking over your shoulder for someone to rob and kille you because of what they think you have.

June 7, 2011 at 8:09 a.m.
Veritas said...

The city is better off without this THUG, I'm certain his illegitimate progeny will grow up and follow in his father's footsteps. I pity the poor stuffed animals abandoned on this wretched street.

June 7, 2011 at 11:36 a.m.
dao1980 said...

I am pretty sure that life does not usually just "fall into place".

Personal responsibility, good work ethic, situational awareness, well rounded perspective, self control, are all phrases that come to mind when pondering the "how to" of coercing life into a state of "being in(to) place".

The whole idea of "results from nothing" as it were, sounds to me like third and fourth generation welfare recipient's lingo.

June 7, 2011 at 11:54 a.m.
magpie614 said...

To Veritas you do not know what kind of turn this young man's life had taken before he was killed. I pray you do not have any kids and if you do noone takes their life. You do not have the right to say what this young man's child is going to be like when he grows. How can you feel more sorry for stuffed animals than the life of a 17 year old young man. I feel sorry for your Veritas ... I mean Mr. Perfect since you have made no mistakes in your life.

June 7, 2011 at 2:14 p.m.
HannaBeckman said...

magpie614,Veritas is 100% correct in his assessment of this 17 year old thug! He got what he deserved,period!!!!Now we will here his mom cry and blame the white establishment!!! She is a deadbeat as well, and more than likely part of the street culture there in gangsta hood as well. I hate deadbeats/ welfare moms/poor white trash/redneck backwoods hicks/blacks who blame white people/ and other moochers/

June 7, 2011 at 10:27 p.m.
iggiepops64 said...

This is to everyone except all are the reason why living in Chattanooga is no longer enjoyable and why this city is going to hell in a hurry. Ignorant idiots like yourselfs should suffer the same fate as this poor woman and innocent child are now having to suffer without a son and father. The only backwoods deadbeats that I can see are those of you who have forgotten that you have a heart and that GOD is the only one to judge a man (or woman) on the character of their soul. I must have missed the news story that announced you as the new god around here. If you want an honest reason to bitch about the HOOD or the THUGs, then bitch about the lack of opportunities in this city for young men and women to make a living for themselves and their families the RIGHT way. So I take it, from your post, that the KILLER of this young man should be put upon a pedestal??? Really, your attitudes and comments make you more of a killer than he is...maybe you should walk in their shoes before spread your venom.

June 7, 2011 at 11:53 p.m.
dao1980 said...


I bet you have a hard time figuring out why many things happen.

It's ok, just concentrate real hard for a moment on the implications of "cause and effect".

You'll get it, I believe in you.

Oh, and by the way, Chattanooga is an awesome city... even if it has to deal with its share of ignorant violence and emotional enablers.

June 8, 2011 at 8:35 a.m.
brokentoe said...

Especially people in the black community need to think about what they say during interviews and how it's going to carry over into the general public when it goes to print. Ms. Townsend's remarks about her son having weed on him shouldn't not have been said. In fact, when such a tragedy strikes these communities they should have a designated spokesperson to speak on the family's behalf. No family member should speak to the media when emotions are running so high and individuals are liable to say things they might later regret.

June 8, 2011 at 11:05 a.m.
TiredOldMan58 said...

How many of you have seen someone die a violent death as the result of crime? How many of you have seen a loved one die in agony in the street? How many of you have watched the life blood flow out of your child after having been shot? I hope you never do. I hope none of us ever do.

Talk of third/fourth generation welfare recipient lingo and poor stuffed animals is inappropriate, insensitive, and indecent. If the types of comments I've read here (with a few exceptions) were all I had to say about a mother watching her son die, regardless of the reasons, I just wouldn't say anything at all.

Self restraint and compassion are still considered virtues by some.

June 8, 2011 at 1:12 p.m.
dao1980 said...

I guess your right tiredoldman58, we should all just look away.

It's probably true, that in reality, ignorant violence will never cease to exist.

And all of this insensitive boo-ing from an angry crowd does no good to stop it.

Situational insight just hurts the feeling of emotional enablers, and the angry condemning of cultural systems that promote this violence just causes outrage.

June 8, 2011 at 1:29 p.m.
Haiku said...

People see and hear so much about violence and criminal activity coming from the black community that they've become desensitized to it. And some of the media outlets doesn't always help, not point fingers at TFP, by the way they tend to stay on a situation for sometimes days and days.

June 8, 2011 at 2:32 p.m.
TiredOldMan58 said...

We might like to look away, dao1980, but we can't. I just think we ought to reach inside and find some compassion, and maybe some restraint from expressing hurtful comments, no matter how much we know some of them to be true.

There are people out there who deserve to be the recipient of our anger and outrage and yes, even hatred. The one(s) who shot the young man, for instance. There is real evil in our society. I think I'll hold my tongue for someone like the man who shot a CPD officer to death a couple of months ago, or the serial child rapist, or the serial killer, not the mother of a 17 yr old gunned down in our streets because he may have been robbed for the marijuana on him.

And yes, I don't think we can put aside the cause(s) for this young man was doing what he reportedly was doing on the streets.

I make mistakes too, and am sometimes insensitive to others. I hope God will forgive me and bless us all.

June 9, 2011 at 12:32 p.m.
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