Posted on February 8, 2006

Man’s Arrest Stains Anti-Gang Campaign

Michael Biesecker, News Observer (Raleigh), Feb. 7, 2006

A fledgling Durham program aimed at helping gang members turn away from crime got a black eye when one of its inaugural participants was arrested last week in a January shooting.

Dwight Jemele Bagley, 26, was hand-picked as one of the first two young men hired through Project Strike, a new program that awards convicted criminals city jobs and counseling aimed at helping them earn an honest living. Though he was a member of the Bloods street gang and had served nine years in prison for killing a man when he was 15, it was hoped Bagley would serve as an example for others by earning a paycheck as a laborer with the city’s Department of Water Management.

But Bagley was arrested Wednesday on charges that include assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury, discharging a weapon onto occupied property and possession of a firearm by a felon — all stemming from a shooting Jan. 16 in Hillsborough. Bagley, who started his new city job the morning after the shooting, has been placed on administrative leave without pay pending the outcome of the charges.

City Manager Patrick Baker said he had interviewed Bagley for the job in December and cleared him for employment.

“I take full responsibility,” Baker said at a City Council meeting Monday night, though reinforcing that the young man should be considered innocent until proven guilty. “I put my reputation on the line for Mr. Bagley. This is extremely disappointing because I felt he was the person who could help lead a number of young men away from a life of crime. We’ll let the criminal justice system handle it from here.”