Local residents and a number of children gathered at the corner of Eighth and Page streets on Thursday, February 3, to mourn the death of 30-year-old David Lee “Gundo” Cowan, the victim of this city’s first homicide of 2011. Flowers and dozens of tea lights were placed at a section of sidewalk, stained with a few dark spots, in the Westhaven neighborhood, where Cowan was found by city police early Thursday morning with a gunshot wound to his neck.
David Lee Cowan, 30, reportedly has cousins in Westhaven (pictured), Charlottesville’s largest and oldest public housing site. Near 3am on February 3, his stepfather received a call from one of Cowan’s cousins, who said Cowan had been shot.
“He was a good boy,” Cowan’s stepfather, Charles Kenney, told C-VILLE. “And it’s a bad situation.”
At roughly 2:45am, Charlottesville police responded to shots fired near Run Street, which intersects 10th Street NW near Westhaven, the city’s largest and oldest public housing development. Law enforcement found Cowan, who died on the scene. Lieutenant Ronnie Roberts says that investigators do not currently have information concerning the weapon used, and did not disclose whether Cowan was armed. Charlottesville’s CrimeView website lists eight aggravated assaults in the Westhaven neighborhood during the last year, as well as three weapon law offenses.
Cowan’s Westhaven ties were at least two-fold: He reportedly has family in the neighborhood, and had also been arrested on three occasions and charged with trespassing on the property, from which he was banned. Cowan plead guilty to two of the charges, stemming from incidents in July 2000 and December 2001; he was found not guilty of a third charge in 2003.
Asked why his stepson was in Westhaven, Kenney mentioned Cowan’s family ties.
“He has relatives over there, but I don’t know who all he knew over there,” said Kenney. “He probably knew a lot of people. Cousins.” Asked whether Cowan was in trouble, Kenney replied, “No, because he didn’t bother nobody.”
Local law enforcement has the authority to ban individuals from public housing sites on behalf of the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority (CRHA), which oversees Westhaven. During the last fiscal year, 37 people were banned from public housing sites around the city.
A Facebook page, “RIP David Gundo Cowan,” was created within hours, and attracted more than 1,000 people, many of whom left tributes to Cowan. “When I moved here…you where [sic] the first guy I got to know and gave me the shirt off your back when I was chilli [sic] and took me home,” wrote one person. “They say ‘The good die young’ but at the wrong time,” added another.
At press time, investigators had no new information to report, and asked that anyone with information call the CrimeStoppers tip line at 977-4000