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Slayings raise questions of safety on West Avenue
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Running from Rainey Street near Gainesville High School to E.E. Butler Parkway near Queen City Parkway, West Avenue cuts a central, connecting vein through the heart of Gainesville.

Although the street connects major arteries of the city, some say it’s a place better to avoid after a string of violent slayings marred the reputation of what was once considered a safe, quiet area to live, residents said.

“That was quite shocking,” said longtime resident and Gainesville City Councilman George Wangemann. “Normally you at least don’t have more than one incident at a time, so we were very surprised, and surprise led our concern, you know: Is West Avenue still a safe place to live? We were very concerned about that.”

The Gainesville Police Department stressed the incidents don’t indicate some sort of pattern.

“There have been two unrelated, isolated incidents on West Avenue in previous weeks,” said spokesman Cpl. Kevin Holbrook. “One of these incidents was domestic related, which is not random, and the other circulated around narcotics, which again, is not random.”

But in each case, one person was left dead, and another was charged with murder.

Leshan Tremiele Tanner, 42, is accused of shooting Cedric Antonio Huff on June 5 in a drug-related encounter.

The next week, Pamela Ann Porter was charged with murder in connection with allegedly stabbing her live-in boyfriend, Rodney Griffith, outside the apartment they shared.

One neighbor, Luis Gutierrez, said Porter was personable and kind.

Wangemann, too, said he had positive interactions with Porter, and was shocked to hear of the charges.

“Knowing her, I didn’t expect that this would take place,” he said.

But when drugs or alcohol are involved, as alleged in the case, bad things “can happen to anybody and anywhere,” Wangemann added.

Perhaps ironically, he had the occasion to meet Porter during an effort meant to promote a healthy and safe community: a neighborhood cleanup.

“Myrtle (Figueras, fellow council member) and I had done a cleanup on West Avenue with Keep Hall Beautiful, and (Porter) asked if she could join in, and I of course said that she could,” he said. “I would never expect that a person like that could do something violent.”

Gutierrez said he had already thought about moving because of other, more petty crimes, and the back-to-back slayings pushed the thought to the forefront of his mind.

“We had actually thought about moving already, especially having younger kids,” he said.

Wangemann said although both events were explainable, to an extent, they were still troubling.

“We’re just very concerned,” he said. “Some people have told me I need to move off the street, including members of my own family.”

Wangemann insisted he wouldn’t let such thoughts cause him to abandon his longtime home.

“But I’m not going to be pushed off the street, because that’s been my home now for 36 years.”

He said he would promote enrichment on both the physical side, with continued cleanup efforts, and appealing to people’s moral, spiritual sides.

“I say, let’s all try to become better individuals,” he said. “There still are enough people on the street who care about our neighborhood. If we can get them together, I believe that it can make a difference in our community.”

“All five of our children grew up in West Avenue, and it wasn’t considered a dangerous street back then,” he added. “We just have to be watchful, and watch out for each other.”