Gun violence victims speak out at Evansville rally

Gun violence victims speak out at Evansville rally
Over a dozen representatives from several nonprofit organizations attended a call to action rally against gun violence in the Evansville Community.

EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE) - Several community leaders held a rally pleading for an end to the killing in our community.  Over a dozen gathered outside the Evansville Civic Center to mark Gun Violence Awareness Month.

Reverend William Payne spearheaded the event, and several mothers who lost their sons to gun violence joined him.

"When is this going to end? It's not fair. It's not right. I don't understand how when things like this happen and people just move on, like it didn't happen. Like, just look at the turn out...why don't people care," asked Jennifer Schwartz, who spoke in front of the small crowd dressed in orange. "We just need people to care about our kids. That's it." Schwartz lost her 18-year-old son, Calab Luckett, in 2016 when he was shot and killed at Woodland Park Apartments. Luckett's murder remains a cold case.

Bridgett Tate was also there at the rally. Her life was changed forever when her only child, Derrick Brian Jackson II, was killed in 2011. His murder also remains unsolved.

"It's going on seven years now that I've lost him and there's been no consolation for me because they haven't found the killer yet," Tate told the crowd. "To me, I'm not really sure if they're even still looking, but I'm always calling."

Leaders with Mother's Against Senseless Killing (MASK), Indivisible Evansville, and Mom's Who Demand Action all had a similar message at the rally.

"We need to come together as a whole--we can't do it alone," said Mariama Wilson, President of MASK. "One organization can't do it alone. We are all here for the same purpose for the same common goals."

Evansville had the deadliest year in 2017, with almost triple the number of homicides (22) from two years before. Evansville Police has since rolled a new crime prevention unit, called VIPER (Violent, Incident, Prevention, Enforcement, Response).

With the intel from new VIPER unit, the entire department has taken 234 illegal guns off the streets as of June.

"Unfortunately since we've started MASK, we have doubled the number of gun violence here in our community so it's scary," said Mariama Wilson.

"I stand behind the VIPER unit," said Reverend Payne. "I think that it was needed because I know that we had a very high spike in gun and gang activity in our city. But,  the question becomes this: the guns are coming from the home owners and gun owners," Payne said. "They're not just regular handguns--some of these kids out on the streets have assault rifles. So what do we do to try and prevent that?"

If you want to join the gun violence conversation with these organizations, there's an Indivisible Evansville meeting Tuesday, June 19, at 6 p.m. at Central Library Downtown in the Browning Room. Everyone is encouraged to attend. We'll have a crew there.

Copyright 2018. WFIE. All rights reserved.