Gone Too Soon
Family copes with loss after senseless killing
(pictured above: Crystal Thompson wears a t-shirt honoring her late son during a vigil Sunday held in his honor.)
Twenty-two year-old Christopher Thompson will never smile again.
He will never walk through the door of his Gilmer Avenue home and greet his mother and grandmother with a kiss. He won’t hold his infant niece and nephew or play the piano and drums at his church, Mount Carmel Baptist Church.
Members of the Thompson family are still struggling to come to grips with the reality of life without “Chris,” who was shot and killed in the wee hours of the morning of March 23, just steps away from his own front door.
“I know he’s gone but it’s so un real to me, even at this point,” said his mother, Crystal Thompson. “It’s like somebody ripped half of my heart out.”
Thompson, a mother of three, said she and her children shared a special relationship.
“It has been hell for me. It really has,” she said of losing her only boy. “He just wasn’t my son, he was one of my babies. I don’t know what kind of bonds other mothers have with their children, but me and my three, it’s an unbreakable bond.”
Thelma Thompson, the grandmother to Chris and 20 others, used to call Chris, an employee at Carolina Arts & Frames of Kernersville, on his cell phone every morning to wake him up for work.
“I took his number out of my phone because I wanted to call it so badly, but I knew he wouldn’t be there on the other end to answer,” she said of her grandson, who sported a tattoo reading “Nana’s Man” on his arm. “I really can’t explain it, just knowing I won’t see him walk through this door anymore.”
Members of Thompson’s close-knit clan say they miss his soft spoken, upbeat nature.
“He just had a happy soul,” remarked his twin sister, Chartent “Nikki” Thompson. “He was always a little jolly. You could never really make him mad.”
From a young age, Chris’s charm and wit were difficult to resist, his mother said.
“He would just melt your heart,” she declared. “Even at 22, he would melt your heart with that smile.”
Those who knew the Carver High School alumnus best say he was slow to anger always ready with a word of advice or a listening ear.
“He was the best of the best friends to me,” said Nikki Thompson, a mother of one. “He taught me a lot in life … I could talk to him about anything, and I knew my secrets were safe.”
“He taught me a lot in life … I could talk to him about anything, and I knew my secrets were safe.”
Chris took a lot of pride in his work, and had just been promoted at his job the Friday before his death, his mother said. At his funeral last week, well wishers overwhelmed the Mount Carmel sanctuary, spilling out into the balcony, the choir loft and the front lawn.
“It really hurt a lot of people,” Crystal Thompson said of her son’s untimely death. “It’s devastating.”
The investigation into Thompson’s murder is still underway, but as of right now, there are few leads, said Steven Tollie, a lieutenant in the Winston-Salem Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Division.
“We wish that we had a theory but right now we don’t,” Tollie stated.
Tollie, who has nearly 20 years with the WSPD, said officials need the help of community members to piece together the events that led up to Thompson’s death and hopefully identify a suspect. Police delivered hundreds of fliers in Thompson’s neighborhood last week in hopes of finding some new leads, Tollie said. Any information about Thompson’s associations, whereabouts or activities in the hours leading up to his murder could prove useful.
“There is nothing too small for community members to share with us,” Tollie said. “We do rely heavily on their assistance in solving these cases.”
City native Nicole Little, a well known activist and longtime friend of the Thompson family, organized a vigil Sunday in memory of Chris and all those in the community who have lost their lives to violence. Little, the fourth of five children, knows firsthand the horrors of losing a loved one to gun violence. Her 18-year-old brother, Corey Little, was shot and killed at a local gas station. Little, who was in the fourth grade at the time, said his murder devastated her, shattering her innocence and breeding in her a sense of fear that she has never fully been able to shed.
“As a child going through that, it made me feel fearful and it made death real, that I am not excluded, that my brothers are not excluded, from death because of age,” said the Wake Forest University alumna. “…Whenever I hear about a guy getting killed in the streets, I pick up the phone and call my brothers – it doesn’t matter what time it is – because I don’t know if that body is theirs.”
Thompson’s murder was the third homicide in the city this year. A fourth victim, 23-year-old Christopher Jones, was killed on March 28, the day of Thompson’s funeral. All four victims were black males, according to Tollie. Little says she organized the memorial, which included a candlelight walk, speeches and a balloon release, to raise awareness about gun violence in the area and compel anyone who has information involving such a crime to break the silence.
“It’s like gun violence is becoming normalized and we’re becoming desensitized. There’s no longer a face and a name attached to these stories,” Little said. “…I wanted the community to know and realize that we cannot rely on the police to solve every single issue. As a community, we have a role to play.”
Although nothing will bring Chris back to them, the Thompsons say understanding the circumstances surrounding his death would bring some closure to this tragic chapter in their lives.
“That’s what we’re praying for, that somebody in this crowd will speak up with any information,” remarked Chris’ mother.
“It will give us closure and maybe we can find out why,” added his grandmother. “That leaves a hole in you when you don’t know why.”
Anyone with information involving Thompson’s death – or any homicide in the area – can inform authorities through the anonymous Crimestoppers hotline, 336-727-2800 or by contacting the Police Department directly at 336-773-7700 and requesting a homicide detective.