David Duff’s body was on the floor when police arrived at his Richmond, Calif. house shortly before midnight on Dec. 30th. Only 23 years old, Duff was dead of a single gunshot wound. Three days before Duff’s murder, another man was shot and killed at a Richmond intersection. And two days before that, on Christmas night, five people, including a 19-year-old mother and her 2-year-old daughter, were shot at (but not killed) in the city.
Duff’s death marked the last homicide in Richmond during 2015, bringing the death toll to 21 last year (in a city whose population hovers around 107,000), almost two times the rate of 2014. The city consistently ranks as one of the most dangerous cities in the U.S., with 2015 marking the highest death toll since 2011.
“[In Richmond], a beautiful Tuesday night can turn into a deadly Wednesday morning,” says 27-year-old rapper Wantmore N8 (née Nathaniel Flentroy, Jr.). “If you stand outside for 15, 20, 30 minutes, two things will either happen: Somebody comes by shooting or the police comes.”
Despite these harsh realities, N8, who grew up in a south Richmond neighborhood the locals colloquially call “the backstreets,” has never left. “There’s no way around it,” he says. “It’s home.”