VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Within the last month, the Virginia Beach police chief said that there were only two unsolved homicides in 2021.
One involved the June 14 shooting death of Damion Rodriguez-Kirkland, 18, near Lake Edward. The other was DeShayla Harris, 28, who was shot and killed by what police say was a stray bullet on 19th Street at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront on March 26. She was killed during a chaotic night in which 10 people in total were shot and an officer was hit by a car.
On Tuesday, the mother of DeShayla Harris stood aside some of her family and friends and asked for Virginia Beach City Council to help her establish a permanent memorial for her daughter near the scene of the crime.
“This is the hardest thing I ever had to do in my life. To get up every day and know my child is not coming home,” Elisheba Harris said while tearing up.
Harris’ family has been outspoken in their calls for justice as well as criticism for the Virginia Beach Police Department in their handling of the investigation, saying she often feels “forgot about.”
She says it’s a temporary memorial near the intersection of 19th Street and Pacific Avenue and of “Dollar Tree flowers” where she goes to remember her daughter.
“When I go there, it makes me smile. It takes away some of the pain,” Elisheba Harris said. “I’m asking for Virginia Beach to help me … just the support would be a lot to me.”
However, Councilwoman Sabrina Wooten, who requested the time in the City Council workshop to discuss a more permanent memorial, suggested a plaque.
“The night she traveled to Virginia Beach, she was celebrating her new career as a cosmetologist,” Wooten said. “She was here in the City of Virginia Beach to celebrate her accomplishment as a young professional and she was murdered.”
Minister Gary McCollum, who stood alongside DeShayla’s mother, mentioned DeShayla was “well known.” The Norfolk native was a star on the “Bad Girls Club” reality show.
However, following the remarks from Elisheba Harris, Wooten and McCollum, there was no discussion about the memorial. Rather, Mayor Bobby Dyer floated a different idea.
Following a series of meetings regarding community violence with the other six mayors of Hampton Roads, an idea emerged to establish a youth violence task force. Dyer announced he asked the other mayors if they would consider naming it the “DeShayla Harris 757 Youth Violence Task Force.”
“If we could put a name to a situation of an innocent bystander losing a life, it would show the region is serious,” Dyer said. “We can’t do this by ourselves — it has to be regional and it has to become a part of the culture that’s out there that we’re not going to tolerate this.”
To this, Elisheba Harris nodded in agreement.
“I am so happy and so pleased that the city has come up with something for us and the mayor’s idea was wonderful and I’m so grateful that something is happening,” Elisheba Harris said.
Wooten said she also still planned to bring forward a resolution to allocate some money toward a permanent memorial.
Editor’s note, March 28, 2022: Since the original reporting of this story, Virginia Beach Police Chief Paul Neudigate has said the information given during a meeting March 30, 2021 that nine people were shot and injured and two others were killed at the Oceanfront March 26 was not correct. WAVY confirmed with the chief that eight people were injured and two were killed.