LYNCHBURG, Va. – “All of a sudden, all I heard was several gunshots,” said 18-year-old Tariq Benson.
That’s becoming an all-too-familiar experience for Lynchburg residents due to the rise in homicides in recent months.
The latest happened on Sunday when 66-year-old Frank Smith was shot and killed in the 700 block of Madison Street, a few blocks away from the Academy Center of the Arts.
Benson, who lives near where the shooting happened, said he knew the victim and that Smith was just visiting a neighbor mourning the loss of a loved one.
“The mother, she had died earlier that morning and family was coming over. So, I guess he came to pay his respects, and something happened,” said Benson.
The investigation is ongoing and marks the second homicide of 2021.
Last week, Samantha Robinson, a 28-year-old mother, was gunned down while driving along 12th Street.
“She is an innocent victim, obviously driving down the road. [She] was, unfortunately, in the wrong place in the wrong time,” said Lynchburg Police Chief Ryan Zuidema.
Zuidema calls Lynchburg a safe community only averaging three to four homicides a year.
The Hill City has now seen four homicides in two months.
Zuidema does not believe these shootings are connected and is now asking the community to come forward with information.
“There are situations involved in these last four homicides, over the last couple of months, where we know factually there are witnesses to these homicides that will not cooperate. And that is very, very frustrating. These are people that hold information that can help solve a crime where someone has lost a loved one,” said Zuidema.
Until then, Benson doesn’t feel safe in his own neighborhood.
“I have two nephews that live with me, and it doesn’t feel safe to bring them outside,” said Benson.
Anyone with information is asked to call Lynchburg police at 434-455-6050.