What started as an ordinary Wednesday night in Norfolk, Virginia, turned to tragedy when a gunman shot five women, killing three and injuring two. Among the victims was a lesbian couple attempting to save their teenage daughter.
Nicole Lovewine, 45, and her partner, Detra Brown, 42, were enjoying an evening with friends after coming home from work when the shooting took place, reports The Virginian-Pilot. As they spoke with other adults, approximately a dozen children played nearby, some using a trampoline that Lovewine had bought after a nearby recreation center shut down.
Then, at around 6 p.m., a car pulled up. The newspaper reports that the rear door swung open and Lovewine’s 19-year-old daughter, who was pregnant, jumped out. Shortly after, a man — Ziontay Palmer, 19 — reportedly exited from the passenger side. That’s when shots were fired.
When the shooting stopped, Lovewine and Brown — as well as 44-year-old Sara Costine — were dead. Lovewine’s daughter and a 39-year-old woman were injured and taken to the hospital. Both are expected to recover, according to the newspaper.
Police report that Lovewine and Brown ran outside to render aid when they were shot and killed by Palmer.
“As the community was trying to render aid, this coward shoots them,” said Norfolk Police Chief Larry Boone, per 13 News Now.
“We need to start speaking up because this, I’ve never seen this in my 30 years career — five women shot at one time,” he said.
Palmer, who was in a relationship with Lovewine’s daughter, is now in police custody, charged with three counts of second-degree murder, two counts of malicious wounding and several firearm charges. He is being held without bond after his arraignment Thursday in Norfolk General District Court.
Boone adds that police believe this was a domestic issue.
Robin Gauthier, executive director of Samaritan House, a domestic violence support group, told the 13 News Now that she was surprised to see bystanders get hurt, as she’s rarely seen that happen in her 20 years helping domestic violence victims.
“Just a real disturbing trend that the bystanders are also getting hurt or killed,” she said. “It concerns me because people aren’t going to want to help the victims if they are in danger.”
“This is an epidemic and we have to pay attention to our African American women,” Gauthier said. “This is serious. They’re getting killed.”
Lovewine leaves behind four children, three boys and a girl, according to WTKR. The community is grieving the losses of the three who died.
“They loved to dance,” Burt McManus — bartender and manager at 37th & Zen, where the couple were regulars — told the news station. “That’s what I really loved about them. They would love to come and sing karaoke. They came out every Wednesday, like our shrimp night. They were just a big part of our community.”
“I can see them rushing to the scene, probably, even if it wasn’t her daughter because that’s who they were. If something’s happening, they’re going to go see what’s up,” McManus said.