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Camden’s rough neighborhood violence claims the life of a gay teen

Monday, August 13, 2012
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CAMDEN, N.J. — On Chase Street in the Camden, N.J. neighborhood of Whitman Park, friends have constructed up a memorial to Wauynee Wallace at an abandoned house. Like similar tributes that pop up hours after a death, the words “In lovin Memory” are spray-painted before his name on a white sheet. Teddy bears, cards, and empty liquor bottles line the base.

But this memorial also includes a rainbow flag, because Wauynee was openly gay.

Family Photo

Wauynee Wallce

In what police have labeled the worst outbreak of violence in decades due to an ongoing spike in gang and drug-turf battles, Camden has recorded 40 homicides so far this year, a dozen more than at this time in 2011, reported the Philadelphia Inquirer.

But in the killing of Wauynee Wallace, 17, Camden detectives say they still have no motive and no suspects.

Wauynee’s mother, Ebony, is not satisfied with the police investigation, and said she is convinced that someone knows who shot her son in the back of the head last month.

Two friends who were with him when he was killed said they heard the shot, turned around, and saw him falling face down, with his eyes closing. Then they scattered. They didn’t see the shooter, they said.

Friends described Wauynee Wallace as a selfless, outgoing, and charismatic gay teenager, comfortable with his sexuality despite living in a city where gay youth said they were verbally harassed constantly and warned to stay off certain blocks.

People “make us feel like we’re literally a dog instead of a human,” said Heaven Filmore, 18, a close friend who lived near Wallace and who was with him the night he died. “Words definitely hurt, if you got to hear it every day, every hour on the hour.”

Wallace was trendy, friends said. He would wear an orange athletic T-shirt and orange boots and shorts. He dyed the top of his hair blond, red, and other colors. He named his hairstyles — like the “peanut-butter-and-jelly.” He wore wigs and makeup, his mother said.

He was known to snap his fingers and say, “I’m to the gauuds,” which meant he was looking good that day, friends said.

He designed his own clothes and promised to design a cousin’s wedding gown for a fall ceremony, now postponed since his death.

“There will never be another like him. Never. . . . It’s impossible,” said Ziare Nock, 18, a close friend.

Jason Laughlin, a spokesman with the Camden County, N.J., prosecutor’s office, said that without a motive or witness, police have no case.

And Ebony Wallace, who hasn’t left her house much since her son was killed, hopes to soon leave the city where she grew up.

“I understand the hate that breeds in my ‘hood,” she said. “I understand why they kill, why they sell drugs, why they murder. I understand where we come from, but why my kid? My baby was a good kid.”

Ebony Wallace picked up her son’s ashes last Thursday.

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