Durham police over the week charged a 21-year-old man with a disturbing, end-of-year mass shooting that killed two teens and wounded four juveniles between the ages of 17 and 12.

Members of the Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Department’s Violent Crime Impact Teen took Keon Rayquan Beal into custody on Saturday, according to a Durham police release.

Officers transported Beal back to Durham on Wednesday. 

Beal, 21, has been charged with two counts of murder for the shooting deaths of Isaiah Carrington, 19, and Ariuna Cotton, a 15-year-old Hillside student.

Police have also charged Beal with five counts of attempted murder. He has been accused of being responsible for gunfire that wounded three girls, ages 17-, 13-, and 12-, and a 13-year-old boy.

The shootings were a disturbing, macabre ending of a violent year that ended with a record 50 homicides.

It was about 3 a.m. on December 13, when police found the youngsters inside a sports utility vehicle that had crashed into a utility pole near the intersection of Mathison and Eugene streets.

Police have not made public a motive for the shootings.

To paraphrase the writer Ntozake Shange, even during a time when people accept gun violence as casually as morning coffee, the early morning shootings of the children disturbed and angered city and county law enforcement leaders and elected officials.

“We are better than this,” the city’s newly hired and clearly shaken Police Chief Patrice Andrews said at the press conference after offering condolences to the families of the victims.

Standing behind a podium at the downtown police headquarters 12 hours after the shootings, Andrews described the violent crime as a “tragic day for the city and community,” and asked the person or persons responsible for the shootings to put the guns down.

“Durham is better than this,” similarly intoned a distraught Mayor Elaine O’Neal, who had been sworn in one week before. “The Bull City is better than this.”

Brenda Howerton, chair of the Durham Board of County Commissioners, echoed the two new leaders’ sentiments.

“Durham is better than that,” she said

“This is not the Durham that I grew to love and still love today,” Durham County Sheriff Clarence Birkhead said. “We are better than this.”

As the INDY reported this week, 11 people were shot and four died last week over a 72-hour period—between Thursday afternoon and Saturday night.

According to police statistics, the city’s violent death toll so far this year is outpacing last year’s record number of 50 homicides.

“According to our Crime Analysis Unit, through April 9 of this year, there have been 14 criminal homicides from 11 cases, one of which was an officer-involved shooting still under investigation,” police spokeswoman Kammie Michael told the INDY this week. “During the same period last year, there were nine criminal homicides and one negligent manslaughter—10 total.”

Beal is being held at the Durham County jail without benefit of bail, police reported.

Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle. 

Follow Durham Staff Writer Thomasi McDonald on Twitter or send an email to tmcdonald@indyweek.com.