Nancy Taylor, known around her neighborhood as “Grandma,” loved to pray and sing while she walked her dog, Denny.
She also loved Gabrielle Raymond, her younger neighbor who lived nearby. Raymond cared for Taylor when she was sick and offered a listening ear.
As a crowd of 50 silently gathered behind Apex Town Hall Monday to honor the two women who were killed two weeks ago, their friendship was held up as an example that should be remembered — and replicated.
“We need more people talking to their neighbors and caring about what’s going outside the walls of their own homes,” said Doug Stride, the pastor of Hope Community Church in Apex, where Taylor was a member.
Taylor, 69, and Raymond, 37, were shot and killed Jan. 15 in front of Raymond’s home in the South Walk Townhomes neighborhood, about two miles from the vigil.
Monday, mourners also wanted to show their support for the women’s families who sat in black chairs facing two tables, each with a photo of the women.
Each attendee was handed a small white candle to be lit at the end of the ceremony, signifying “a reminder even in our darkest moments, there’s always a glimmer of light,” said Capt. Christal Wenzel of the Apex Police Department.
The tragedy that shook the small Wake County town two weeks ago is still under investigation. Police have released no motive for the shooting.
Harry Hardman, a 37-year-old retired Army captain and resident of South Walk, was arrested and charged with two counts of murder and cruelty to animals for fatally shooting his dog, according to police. He is being held in jail without bond and faces the death penalty if convicted.
‘She was stolen from us’
Taylor moved to Apex from Georgia three years ago to be closer to her grandsons.
“She attended every baseball game they played in and was involved in their lives here,” Stride said. “She always wanted to be the grandmother who was there and present.”
Laura Frankey, a friend of Raymond’s, said she was not the kind of person to “light up a room” because she “could light up your heart, your life.”
“Gabrielle was never looking for attention or praise, despite her frequent acts of selflessness, kindness, creativity and love,” Frankey said, holding back tears. “Her smile and laugh were infectious. Her love of her family and friends was evident in her day-to-day life and even more exemplified during a holiday, birthday, vacation, or really, any special occasion.”
Frankey said Raymond loved her life, friends, family and her work. She was working at RTI International in Durham at the time of her death.
A week after the shooting, Apex police released 911 calls from neighbors who witnessed the incident. One neighbor who called 911 to report Hardman’s behavior before the shooting said he was shouting to the sky and pacing back and forth while holding a pool stick. The caller reported seeing Taylor talking to Hardman before the gunshots rang out.
When Hardman, a former real estate agent, was arrested, he was holding an AR-15, according to police.
Police said the weapon was not used in the shooting, but a search warrant stated four guns were seized from his home on Brussels Drive — three Glocks, a Benelli shotgun — along with a Dell laptop. One of the Glocks is believed to be the weapon used.
Frankey described the incident as “a life cut short by an intentional act of unnecessary violence.”
“We did not lose (Raymond), she was stolen from us,” she said. “Having to grieve a death that did not have to be has been the hardest part of all.”
Apex Police Chief Jason Armstrong spoke to the crowd along with Mayor Jacques Gilbert and Kevin O’Brien, the pastor of Apex Baptist Church.
Armstrong was the police chief in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014 when police and residents clashed after an officer shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown. Armstrong thanked the Apex police officers who responded to the scene on Jan. 15, saying he looks for officers with a “guardian heart and mind.”
“But somebody who has warrior courage,” he said. “There’s nothing worse for any community to be in a time of need when you need warriors, and you find out that you don’t have warriors.”
Wenzel, one of the vigil organizers and the director of the police department’s Criminal Investigations Division, said the officers who responded to the calls have been talking with counselors about their experiences and have been trained to handle such instances.
As for the victims’ families, she had been working closely with them to walk them through the criminal justice process. She has tried to answer any of their questions.
“The day after the incident, we met with both families individually so they could see and meet the detective, the victim advocate and make sure that we are visible to them literally 24 hours a day,” Wenzel said.
The town lit the water tower on Hunter Street purple to show solidarity for the community.
The families of Raymond and Taylor will honor them with funerals and celebrations over the next few weeks. A ceremony has been scheduled at Hope Community Church on Feb. 15 for Taylor.