Student’s murder raises questions of downtown safety

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — In the wake of 19-year-old Josh Proutey’s murder Thursday night in downtown Wilmington, many people are scared.

“I think one of the reasons people are scared is because this is such a lovely city,” Thalian Association Managing Director Susan Habas, who worked with the victim, said. “When needless tragedy like that happens here… We just don’t think it happens here.”

“I think it is very concerning that a random act of violence like that would happen, because I always feel safe walking around downtown, as long as I’m with a group of people,” UNCW student Lauren Donati said. “And the fact that it happened that early, it was not even particularly late at night. It is just really scary to think about.”

Proutey’s body was found at 11 p.m. in what is typically considered a safe part of town, but neighboring business owners are not shocked. They do not blame downtown Wilmington. They blame criminals.

“It does bother me, and I am sure it bothers a lot of people in the area and all of Wilmington,” Reel Café co-owner Ray Jenkins said. “I do feel, however, that this could happen anywhere; anywhere there are criminals that want to do something bad. It could happen anywhere.”

Anyone can speculate about what happened to Proutey, but most think there are ways to avoid this situation.

“I have heard of some bad things that happen downtown at night, so I would never walk around by myself as a woman. I think maybe guys feel like it is ok for them to do that, but I guess it is not any more,” UNCW student Samantha Ridgway said.

“If it was my kid, I would tell them the same thing, whether they were living here or in Chicago or in a small town in Wisconsin,” said Deborah Graham, who owns Bloomers Floral Design nearby. “Be careful. Be smart. Be safe. Do not go anywhere by yourself.”

The Thalian Association has canceled tonight’s performance of “The Hobbit” at the Community Arts Center out of respect for Proutey.

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