Community gathers to prevent violence in wake of recent homicide

on October 5, 2014

Calling for an end to the deadly violence that flared in Richmond in recent weeks, a small group of community volunteers from Ceasefire marched through Pullman Point Friday night.

“We’ve been working tirelessly in the community to reduce gun violence,” activist Tamisha Walker said.

The effort is part of a broader push by the community and police to stop the recent cycle of violence involving young men that culminated in a double homicide last month.

Under the watchful eye of neighborhood security cameras and security guards, about a dozen Ceasefire volunteers and clergy snaked through the low-income housing complex holding placards and appealing to residents for unity.

Walker, who has participated in Ceasefire “night walks” for the past three years, is no stranger to the violence that has plagued Richmond.

“I sold drugs at 13,” she said. “I carried my first gun at 14, I sold drugs to survive.”

Walker now advocates for the rights of African American students and people released from prison and supports efforts to halt street violence in Richmond.

“Kids in our community face so many obstacles before they’re even 18 that they shouldn’t have to face,” she said.

Ten years ago Walker’s brother Mark was killed at the age of 18. He was shot multiple times while leaving his mother’s Richmond home.

Now she worries about her two boys, Irra, 7, and Yomani, 17.

“If he’s one minute late I’m worried about all the bad stuff that could be happening to him,” she said.

Walker cites the lack of job opportunities, the poor educational system and the breakdown of the family structure as the main challenges facing young African American males in Richmond today.

Despite a significant drop in crime this year, several shootings involving young men in recent weeks have caused concern for community leaders.

Dayton Dailey, 23, and Clarence Wallace, 20, both of Richmond, were shot and killed near Fourth Street and Bissell Avenue on Sept. 20.

The slayings came two days after at least one person fired 44 rounds at a nearby apartment building in an incident police say was gang related.

“There is the potential for retaliation,” Special Investigations Lt. Darren Monahan said. “It’s our jobs to stop that retaliation, to try to calm everybody down as much as we can and prevent any further shooting within the city,”

According to Capt. Mark Gagan of the Richmond Police Department, Dailey and Wallace had a history that involved “fights and a possible personal grudge that could have been the motivation for the shooting.”

In connection with the shooting police arrested and later released two suspected gang members. The District Attorney’s office is reviewing their case.

“Anytime there is a homicide, my unit, the community, Ceasefire, everyone flips a switch and reacts to it,” Monahan said.

In what police said was an unrelated incident, a brazen late afternoon drive-by shooting injured two teens Wednesday at a busy intersection near Hilltop Mall. A 16-year-old driver suffered three graze wounds. His 17-year-old passenger was grazed once in the head and a 14-year-old backseat passenger was uninjured.

As in many other cities across the nation, policing techniques in Richmond have evolved in the last decade.

“We find it through Facebook or social media, Instagram, all the tools that are out there the gang unit will use, they’ll start making phone calls to the relatives, visiting relatives homes,” Monahan said.

Police and community workers say that anti-violence efforts have contributed to a steady drop in Richmond’s violent crime rate in recent years.

Working with the police, Ceasefire targets residents with histories of violence and gang activity, and offers services to steer them away from crime.

“The help and the participation we get from the community now is night and day difference than it was 10-15 years ago”, Monahan said.

At the end of the march the volunteers reconvened at the Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church to discuss the response they received and pray for the community.

“You don’t have to be a gangbanger to get killed here in Richmond,” Walker said. “You don’t have to be on the street or have thug friends, you can be an innocent bystander, at the wrong place or at the wrong time.”

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