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

Monday, August 13, 2012

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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11 more reader comments:

  1. So very sad. My heart goes out to the family.

    Posted on Monday, August 13, 2012 at 7:22pm
  2. so sad

    Posted on Monday, August 13, 2012 at 7:24pm
  3. prayers are with the famz!!!!!!!!!! bless him for being open and proud….some people need to seriously grow up was it hurting any of you ignorant people what he believed and supported……rip my fallen fren

    Posted on Monday, August 13, 2012 at 7:27pm
  4. rest in peace prayers to the family and friends

    Posted on Monday, August 13, 2012 at 7:28pm
  5. RIP

    Posted on Monday, August 13, 2012 at 7:30pm
  6. May peace fine away inyo the hearts of hatreds. We send our love your way.

    Posted on Monday, August 13, 2012 at 7:37pm
  7. This is a tragedy but why exactly was it relevant that he was gay? Just another way that we seperate ourselves. He was a human. He was a teenager. He was shot. Its horrible and definitely deserves attention and respect but I find it especially exploitive to focus on the fact that he was gay. Yes focus on the fact that he designed clothes. That’s great. Yes focus on the fact that his friends and family loved him. But stop making a distinction between a gay teen or gay marriages. Act as if we are on an equal playing field for gods sake or we will never get there.

    Posted on Monday, August 13, 2012 at 7:39pm
  8. RIP

    Posted on Monday, August 13, 2012 at 7:40pm
  9. Such a tragedy!

    Posted on Monday, August 13, 2012 at 7:41pm
  10. What a sad and senseless loss. So sorry.

    Posted on Monday, August 13, 2012 at 7:44pm
  11. Why are people still doing this?!

    Posted on Monday, August 13, 2012 at 7:49pm