Christian Dawson, victim

Dallas native and college student Christian Dawson, 19, is dead from gunfire that erupted in the Skillman Commons parking lot early New Year’s day. Others were injured. And this marks one of many times people have become victims of murder or violence  at the same address, 9220 Skillman St., home of Azure Banquet Hall, Cuzco Latin Cuisine and several other businesses.

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Dallas Police were not exaggerating last week when they told us New Year’s Eve is their big night. I saw police and emergency vehicles at no less than six spots between Downtown and northeast Dallas in a span from about 12:15 to 1:15 a.m. By far, the biggest commotion was just south of my own Woodbridge neighborhood near Richland College.

The police helicopter was circling over Skillman and I-635, shining its spotlight into neighborhood businesses and apartment complexes.

Ambulances, lights flashing, sat scattered about the parking lot of the Azure Banquet Hall, 7-11 and the other shopping center north of Skillman. Other emergency vehicles speedily arrived at or left the location. Close to a hundred people milled around the 7-11 lot. One paramedic told me there had been a shooting, but did not offer much more information.

Soon we learned that at least one person had been transported to the hospital, where he died, and police were still searching for the shooter. More victims were treated for non life-threatening injuries and released.

This morning police released the name of the deceased, 19-year-old Christian Dawson, a sophomore at Langston University visiting his hometown over winter break.

Dawson, based on the public pieces of his Facebook profile, was a graduate of Hebron High School who just a few months ago was “stressing” over midterms. He seemingly had a tight-knit family who frequently encouraged and expressed pride in him and chided him good-naturedly when he let his hair grow out. He was close to his little brother, mom and dog, and he was a Dak Prescott and Dallas Cowboys fan.

According to Dallas Police public information officers, they first responded to the shooting call at 9220 Skillman Street at 1:04 a.m.

The victim, Christian Dawson, a black male 19-years-old was shot at the location and transported to an area hospital where he died from his injuries. Other patrons, who were also injured, sought treatment for non-life threatening injuries. Anyone with information regarding these offenses is encouraged to contact the Dallas Police Homicide Unit at 214.671.3682 or Detective Walton at 214.671.3632.  

Last July, Cassandra Subi, a 19-year old graduate of Skyline High School in Dallas was killed at the same location. Subi was leaving an event at the Azure Banquet Hall at 2 a.m. when a gunfight broke out in the parking lot. She was sitting in her car when a bullet pierced her head; her death remains unsolved.

The aforementioned 7-11 across the street from the banquet hall has been robbed on multiple occasions (the most recent we know of was an armed robbery in October) and was the site of a horrific gas-pump murder caught on video and the 2015 stabbing of a 21-year-old man, during an altercation. It’s next door to a crime-riddled apartment complex right outside which a man was shot in the face while walking his dog

We reported in 2016 that Dallas Police appointed 170 officers to a violent crime task force that is focused on Dallas’ five highest crime neighborhoods. Topping the list at that time was the Forest-Audelia region, which includes not only the Forest-Audelia blocks but also the Skillman/LBJ DART, Skillman/LBJ and a brief radius around it all. A decrease in crime, owed to the task force, was announced two months ago.

Though there exist at least a couple of locally loved eateries in this high crime center — see Michelle’s and Cuzco — it has long been troubled by extreme violence. In 2009, a well-received restaurant called Flavor Asian Fusion closed, due to concerns about crime. There once was a Quiznos and then a cute little sandwich shop called Samich’s Sandwiches, whose Chicago-born owner was optimistic but ultimately left for the same reason.

Also in 2009, when the Azure space was unoccupied, homeowners from Woodbridge opposed requested rezoning that would allow a late night bar or club there. One of the main reasons for the opposition was violence during the previous occupation of the space by a private club, which included a parking lot shooting. The rezoning for a night club was denied by the plan commission and the property is zoned MU3 (multi-use 3), which allows for a variety of services. Both Azure and Cuzco stay open late, until 2 a.m., and host bands and dancing, which evidently is allowed with the current zoning.

In a comment on a WFAA story, a relative of New Year’s Day victim Christian Dawson writes that she does not believe he was the intended target.

We will continue to update the story as we learn more.