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'I'm Lost And I'm Hurt': Community Members Affected By Gun Violence Call On City To Address The Issue

Lavonda Evans and her mother address the Law and Public Safety Committee Tuesday after her son, 16-year-old son Ladarius Evans, was killed while planning a birthday party for a friend in Walnut Hills in June.
Lavonda Evans, right, and her mother address the Law and Public Safety Committee Tuesday after her son, 16-year-old Ladarius Evans, was killed while planning a birthday party for a friend in Walnut Hills in June.

One woman recalled losing her daughter and, later, her grandson to gun violence here, which she called "a slap in the face."

After a summer of gun violence in Cincinnati, families and community leaders directly impacted by shootings addressed the Law and Public Safety Committee Tuesday. They pleaded with city officials for resources and solutions to prevent more violence in the streets.

Among them was Lavonda Evans. Her 16-year-old son Ladarius Evans was killed while planning a birthday party for a friend in Walnut Hills in June.

"I'm scared to speak for my son, put posters up, because I'm scared they're gonna come to my house where I live and try to hurt me for him being a word for him. So, I don't know what to do. I'm lost. I'm lost and I'm hurt," she said.

Grandmother Mary Walton also talked to the committee. Her 16-year-old grandson Eric Shieldswas killed in the West End two years ago.

"My grandson got killed ... August the 17th, 2019. And my thing is, I lost his mother to gun violence. And I had to raise him and then to lose him to gun violence is like a slap in the face," she said.

No arrests have been made in Shields' or Evans' homicides. There have been 49 homicides in Cincinnati this year, according to data from the Cincinnati Police Department. 2021 is half over and is at the halfway mark of the record violence of over 90 homicides last year.

Victims of shooting and homicides have included teenagers and school-age children caught in the crossfire of shootouts. City and neighborhood leaders have called for an end to the violence, hosting town halls and assigning more police officers to the streets on the weekends.

Bishop Ennis Tait commended city officials for the work they've done to address gun violence but says those efforts are not enough. He says communities need more money and resources for people directly involved in mentoring youth and preventing gun violence.

"We pay more money for researchers than we do for the people actually doing the work," he said.

Without support, people's efforts and programs that help city officials and police work within communities may start to dwindle.

"And when you start to drain them, they lose the energy that they need to maintain. So we need to be more conscious and cognizant of the individuals who are working on the ground to make sure that they're being replenished and energized to continue the work that they're doing." Tait said.

Protection For Witnesses

Karen Rumsey runs the Cincinnati Citizens Respect Our Witnesses program through CPD. It's known as CCROW. It provides safe and confidential ways for people to report crimes in their own neighborhoods.

She spoke at the end of the meeting, reminding the community that resources are out there for people who want to help end violence in their communities.

"I do want the community to know that there are resources available by people who have been impacted by homicide, by any violence," she said.

That includes helping people get monthly follow-ups on cases, support groups and relocation services.

She says the mission for CCROW is to bridge the gap between the police department and the community. Since October 2020, the organization has helped 130 victim witnesses and there are over 50 currently waiting to testify in court, she said.

"If you feel uncomfortable talking to the police officer the day that this horrible thing happens to you ... after they leave, call us because it is so important. You can't think about solutions to gun violence if you don't think about empowering communities where the violence is happening," Rumsey said.

For more information, visit theCCROW website.

Jolene Almendarez is the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants who came to San Antonio in the 1960s. She was raised in a military family and has always called the city home. She studied journalism at San Antonio College and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism and Public Communications from the University of Alaska Anchorage. She's been a reporter in San Antonio and Castroville, Texas, and in Syracuse and Ithaca, New York.