By Alton Mitchell
A rash of gun related violence exploded over east central Alabama over the past week. Two separate double shootings just hours apart would leave three men dead, one wounded, and police officers searching for suspects.
The first shooting occurred in the early morning hours of Thursday in Phenix City. Police officers responded to a report of shots fired on 14th Court in the south end of the city. When officers arrived they discovered the bodies of two young men both suffering from gunshot wounds. When Russell County Coroner Arthur Sumbry Jr. arrived he pronounced both men dead.
Sumbry would identify the victims as 18-year-old Alonzo Pipkin and 24-year-old London Long, both young men were natives of Phenix City. Reports indicate that both men suffered from multiple gunshot wounds. Police have yet to identify a suspect in that case.
Before the sun would set on Thursday two more east Alabama men would become the victims of gun violence. The second double shooting of that day would occur only about 25 miles away in Opelika when a broad day shooting located near Edmon Avenue would leave one man dead and another wounded.
Shortly before 3:00 p.m. Opelika police and emergency officials would respond to a call of multiple shots fired in the 600 block of Edmon Avenue. Lee County Coroner Bill Harris would arrive on the scene and pronounce a 19-year-old man dead from multiple gunshot wounds. Harris later identified that victim as Jalen Cavon Johnson a native of Opelika.
While Opelika Police worked the crime scene on Edmon Avenue a second victim arrived at East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika suffering from gunshot wounds. This victim was taken to the hospital by a personal vehicle. The second victim was only identified as a 24-year-old male. He was placed in the intensive care unit of the hospital following surgery for the incident.
On Monday Opelika Police made a major break in the case as they were able to make an arrest in the homicide. Police arrested 22-year-old Ladarius Deion Payne shortly after the lunch hour on Monday. Police were able to arrest Payne on an outstanding murder warrant for the murder of Johnson last Thursday. Police may file additional charges against Payne in relation to the fatal shooting.
The rash of gun violence in the two east Alabama cities only hours apart is a true rarity for the area as demographically Opelika and Phenix City are very closely similar and crime statistics tend to run neck and neck in the cities over the span of an annual analysis. Police do indicate that they still do have active ongoing investigations into both shootings and ask anyone with details to come forward.