A man who was shot dead just yards from a city hospital may be the latest victim in a bloody feud between warring street gangs.
Police are investigating claims that Dwaine Haughton may have been targeted simply because he had wandered into a rival gang’s territory.
The 24-year-old was shot in the head in an execution-style killing as he sat in a blue Peugeot 207 car in Wolverhampton on Friday night. Minutes later, he was driven to the nearby New Cross hospital, where armed police were called as officers scoured the area.
Detectives said they believe Haughton, known by his nickname Big D, was “deliberately targeted” and that his death may be the culmination of a number of tit-for-tat firearms offences over the last six months which led one local judge to liken the city to the “wild wild west.”
Haughton’s murder, and the fear of immediate reprisals, led West Midlands Police to enforce a Section 60 order in the city for an unprecedented fifth time in two months.
The order gives police officers powers to stop and search suspects without reasonable grounds where there is a risk of violence, or where it is believed that weapons are being carried.
Wolverhampton has been gripped by territorial gang violence which has intensified in the last six months with multiple reports of gunfire and violence.
Gangland sources in the city told HuffPost UK that warring rivals were based in Pendeford and the Park Village and Low Hill districts.
One youth worker, who did not want to be named, said: “They are shooting at each other over drug sales and petty issues of respect. People are getting shot for just being in the wrong area at the wrong time.
“Dwaine had links to the Pendeford boys because he lived in those parts and so he was taking a risk being in the Park Village area. It must have been an opportunist hit. Someone’s probably just noticed him in a car and taken a shot at him.”
Police said they were probing claims that Haughton’s murder may be linked to a drive-by shooting just a week earlier at the Gatehouse pub near Low Hill.
Last night tributes were paid to Haughton by his family, who described him as “the most caring, loving and thoughtful.”
The victim’s family said: “You have left a big hole in all of our hearts. We will forever miss your beautiful cheeky smile and infectious laugh. Love and miss you son, grandson, brother, uncle, nephew and cousin.
“You were the most caring loving and thoughtful boyfriend and would have been the most perfect husband and father.
“We love you more than words can show, I think about you more than you could ever know. Until forever this will be true, because there is no one I would ever love the way I love you.
“If tears could build a staircase and memories a lane I’d ride up to heaven and bring you home again.”
Chief Superintendent of Wolverhampton Police, Jayne Meir, said the murder investigation was at a “very early” stage but said officers were working tirelessly on the case.
She revealed she was left “devastated” by the tragedy, adding: “I think tensions are running high at the moment. People will know the victim and will be concerned about the level of violence that we are seeing in Wolverhampton at the moment.”
Officers will now spend the coming days trawling through CCTV, reviewing forensic evidence from the scene and continuing house-to-house enquiries.
Detectives will also examine the vehicle the victim was in when he was rushed to New Cross Hospital following the shooting.
Anyone with information is urged to call the homicide team on 101, quoting log 2914 of July 20 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.