LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) — With 106 homicides, Louisville is nearing the all-time record of 110 set back in 1971, long before consolidation. More than 350 others have been hurt by gun violence in 2016. Leaders across the city and state call it a public health crisis that must be stopped.
Some of Louisville’s youngest shooting survivors are now trying to find a solution to the crime. This group is made up of shooting victims under 17, professors and researchers from Spalding University, University of Louisville trauma surgeons, and other community leaders. By getting all of these stakeholders together, the hope is they’ll be able to get to the root of what’s causing the violence and figure out ways to stop it.
Tay Reed, 15, and Ki’Anthony Tyus, 11, know the pain from these crimes firsthand. Both were both shot last year.
“Laying in that hospital bed was terrible. My lungs collapsed, and that was horrible. It was just a lot of pain,” Reed said.
“Our [basketball] practice was over and as soon as I went out the gate, this car just flew past and started shooting,” Tyus said. “I thought I was going to die. I just saw everybody else running.”
Now on the road to recovery, both boys have taken an extra step to help prevent this from happening to others. They’re a part of the focus group at University of Louisville and called the first meeting in September a success.
“We were all in that one room just keeping it real and telling the truth. We were telling them how people were getting shot and we were losing friends and people dying and stuff,” Reed said.
Part of that honest conversation focused on why young people are resorting to violence in the first place.
“If they had someone who died, it gives them the audacity to get a gun and go shoot the person who shot their friend,” focus group member and Reed’s cousin Dajon Campbell said.
“I don’t know what’s going through their head, but some people think it’s cool. They just want to fit in. They want a spot. Instead of trying to go to school, get good grades, and having a job, some people just like picking up a gun and just like to fit in,” Reed said. “Some kids, they have a future, but they don’t use their talent.”
The boys said they like being a part of the focus group because it gives them the chance to help others and be leaders in their communities.
“I get to go around helping people and making them feel better,” Tyus said.
“If you say you can’t help, you’re wrong because I think everybodycan help,” Campbell said. “To me, there’s too much going on to not be trying to help. So, that’s why I wanted to help. I don’t want to feel guilty and not help.”
Community leader Chris 2X says other officials like Governor Matt Bevin and JCPS Superintendent Dr. Donna Hargens are also getting involved. This fall, they went on a tour of the hospital, getting a firsthand look at the steps a shooting victim has to go through during recovery. That visit included everything from the initial ER to the operating room and ICU.
Chris 2X said reaching kids as early as possible is the best way to hopefully prevent future violence.
“When people see the symptoms of anger and rage issues gone a
stray and it’s not checked early on, easily by the time that they’re 12 and 13 and 14, they can become a shooter or become a victim of a shooting,” Chris 2X said. “Some people get complacent and they think they’ll grow out of that behavior. No, they won’t. Not when we’re starting to hear two and three-year-olds talking about picking up straps. Not when we’re hearing four and five and six and seven and eight and nine-year-olds talking about how they can hit back not just with a fist fight, but wanting to pick up a gun now.”
Chris 2X said it’s critical to compare this violence to a disease so it gets the urgency and attention it deserves.
“It’s just like the flu. If our public health director called a news conference and said we’ve got an unfortunate outbreak of influenza right now, from our lowest educated to our moderate educated to the highest educated, regardless of their socioeconomic status, everybody would either be seeing the urgency to get their loved one to the ER or primary care physician for some kind of treatment,” Chris 2X said. “You’ve got to do the same with these symptoms that we’re seeing early on as far as the behavioral patterns. When we see them mimicking what’s going on as it relates to street life, we need to feel like there’s an urgency to save them just like if it was an influenza outbreak. People should at least feel that they can become their own neighborhood doctors only if they choose to engage themselves in the problem.”
Chris 2X is hoping to have the focus group meet again in January at University of Louisville. If you’re interested in getting involved, just call 502-379-5292.