The public’s help is being sought as authorities work to solve the murder of 60-year-old Johnny Cunningham, a longtime Rocky Mount community activist.

Cunningham’s body was discovered Thursday morning after Edgecombe County deputies responded to a call about a welfare check at a residence in the 3000 block of Old Battleboro Road.

According to a post on the sheriff’s office’s Facebook page, Cunningham died from multiple gunshot wounds.

Authorities are seeking information about anything out of the ordinary that might have happened between 9:30 and 10 p.m. Wednesday night in the area. They are asking people who live nearby, as well as motorists who were driving in the area during that time, to call the sheriff’s office if they saw or heard anything.

Cunningham had been a regular speaker at Rocky Mount City Council meetings for several years, often talking about housing issues and job opportunities.

In October 2014, he founded The ReGroup 1, a nonprofit organization established to provide jobs and education for felons to help them turn their lives around.

“Johnny was either giving the council grief or praising them,” former city council candidate Gwen Wilkins said. “You either liked him or you didn’t, but no one deserves to be gunned down.”

Ward 2 Councilman Reuben Blackwell expressed a range of emotions.

“I am shocked, saddened, appalled and angry that Mr. Cunningham was assassinated,” he said. “I can only imagine the grief that his family is experiencing now. He was a genuine, sincere and courageous friend to many and a champion of poor people. His voice will not be silenced by his death. I pray for his murderers to be arrested and punished and for his legacy to be continued and multiplied. And we pray for his daughter and family as they wrestle with this tragedy.”

Anyone with information about the case is encouraged to call the sheriff’s office at 252-641-7911 and ask for a detective or email tips to

Team Cold Case is offering a reward of up to $15,000 for information leading to an arrest in the slaying and can be reached at 252-406-6736.