The Lost and the Fallen: A Reaction to Gun Violence


Photo courtesy of Daniel Halseth

By Victoria Tillinghast and Benjamin Draper

Originally published October 11, 2021.


Early Friday evening on Oct. 1, for diligent students and those close by, the night was interrupted by another heart-stopping email alert.


“REPORTED OFFENSE: Around 9 p.m. tonight, police responded to a report of a shooting on the 1000 block of West 39th Street in Norfolk. Emergency personnel are on scene—please avoid the area.”


This was an echo of a previous incident that occurred in August.

“O.D.U. Alert: (Shooting)- (1000 block of 39th St.)- Police are investigating the report of a shooting. Please remain out of the area until further notice.”

“It’s like, what’s going on over there?” Dante Jones, a freshman studying computer science commented, stating he feels like the most alarming incidents happen on 39th street nowadays.

The most recent incident is reported to have occurred at The Next, according to the ODUPD Daily Crime and Fire Safety Logs; an apartment complex that prides itself in being “the only student housing property in the area.”

According to the Norfolk Police Department (NPD) service report on the incident, which the Mace and Crown filed a FOIA request for, a call of nine suspected gunshots heard in the area came in at 8:44 p.m.

By 8:49 p.m., the NPD incident report had changed the ‘event type’ from a disturbance (gunshots) to gunshots (victim.)

According to the Virginian Pilot, the victim would be identified the next day as 20-year-old Dominique J. Brooks, who was pronounced dead at the scene.

Poise, personality, mad skills on the football field, and good grades: Brooks was on top of the world in 2019 when he was named offensive player of the year at Indian River High School. The year before, he led the Indian River High football team in a historic upset over Oscar Smith High School. Brooks played football briefly for the Norfolk State University Spartans and was a sophomore in the Business Department. He aspired to own a trucking company with his mother.

“He meant so much to everybody. He touched everybody that he met. He had so much charisma, his personality, his spirit, his soul, everything,” said his mother, Lakisha Brooks.

While events that received more national coverage were easily recalled by students, students interviewed expressed that they felt the email alert was insufficient, barely able to recall Brook’s passing.

Caitlyn Otey, a freshman criminal justice major, commented, “I didn’t even see the email,” regarding the incident on Oct. 1, “My friend told me.”

Brooks played high school football for the Indian River Braves as a quarterback and defensive back. He was also named the Southeastern district offensive player of the year in his senior season. He threw for 2,980 yards for 38 total touchdowns. He was named second-team All-Region 5A and first-team all-southeastern district. Brooks led the Braves to their first Southeastern District Championship in his senior year, the first title for Indian River since 1996. Brooks was recruited by Norfolk State Head Coach Latrell Scott in 2019, as he thought that Brooks was a versatile athlete that could bring competitiveness to the program.

“He was one of the better quarterbacks in the Tidewater area, but definitely has the athleticism to play receiver or defensive back as well. We’re excited about the level of competitiveness he’ll bring,” Scott mentioned of Brooks.

Harrison Johnson, a junior education major, was also blindsided when the incident was introduced to him and reflected on what gun violence meant to him as a future educator.

“I don’t even think legislation is the problem—I think it’s a culture issue.” Johnson reflects, “Mental health is the new battleground.”


Brooks chose Norfolk State because they were highly pursuing him as a recruit. Choosing the Spartans would mean a switch to defensive back and giving up the quarterback role to becoming a factor on the defensive side of the ball instead.

“They loved me the most out of everybody I came in contact with,” said Brooks. “I won’t go back to quarterback and I’m gonna miss that, but I just want to do what’s best for the team.” Brooks was going to major in Business and played his first year as a redshirt for Norfolk State.

He would eventually leave the team and the university in 2020 without any playtime at the collegiate level.


According to the APHA, gun violence is the leading cause of premature death in the U.S., killing more than 38,000 people and causing nearly 85,000 injuries a year. The issue is complex and deeply rooted in our culture.