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Community wants Petersburg leaders to do more to stop gun violence: 'I fear for my life'

Community wants Petersburg leaders to do more to stop gun violence: "I fear for my life"
Posted at 5:40 PM, Apr 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-25 19:04:40-04

PETERSBURG, Va. -- An eruption of violence in Petersburg has left people who call the city home in shock.

“I fear for my life sometimes," said long-time resident, Eric Williams. “I don’t know what’s going on. I've never seen stuff like this."

Petersburg police are investigating multiple shootings within a matter of a few days, three of which happened Friday night. The locations are:

  • Fort Mahone Street
  • Holly Hill Drive
  • Boydton Plank Road
  • South Crater Road

The latest incident happened early Monday morning around 12:30 a.m. when police said they found 32-year-old Jaquan Donte Reid from Chesterfield dead inside a car at a Marathon gas station on South Crater Road.

Officers said they also located a crime scene at the intersection of Mars Street and Jefferson Street.

In total, the shooting incidents left two people dead and five others hurt including three under the age 18-years-old.

“I heard it’s a lot of young people, the youngsters," Williams said. "I'm 55, but these kids coming out and doing this are 17 and 16-years-old.”

The Petersburg school system responded to the tragedies by sending trauma leadership teams to three school communities Monday impacted by the shootings including Petersburg High, Vernon Johns Middle and Pleasant Lane Elementary.

The district said instructors also teach weekly lessons about self-regulation and conflict resolution starting at pre-k to prevent children from resorting to violence. Meanwhile, community activists called for more investment in the city's youth.

“Our job is to catch them while they’re young," said Pastor Raymond Bradley, an associate pastor at New Divine Worship Center.

For Bradley, it's a personal mission. He said his 25-year-old son, Tyrell Fields, died from gun violence in October.

"As a parent, I was angry. I was bitter. I was mad," he said. “I tried everything that I could to try to pull him out of the street.”

He encouraged parents to pay more attention to what their kids are getting involved with.

“When they see their child actually straying in a different way, try to give them some type of wisdom and understanding about the decisions that they're making," Bradley said.

Since before the pandemic began, Bradley explained he's been asking city leaders to pour resources into violence interruption programs, mentorship, and educational and employment opportunities.

“There are challenges for the City of Petersburg when the city is basically behind as far as education is concerned, behind as far as books are concerned, behind as far as finance is concerned," he said. "So we've been going to the city managers talking to them about Boys and Girls Club, about doing things for the community like putting up playgrounds to give the children some type of distraction from what's happening in the community.”

He also would like to see more police presence in some communities and said many young children who have lost their way have given up hope.

“Sometimes when you obtain that type of spirit, and you're living in that lifestyle, it's hard to bring you back," he said. "But it's very much possible to bring them back.”

On a state level, the office of former Attorney General Mark Herring awarded Petersburg with $300,000 from federal funding earlier this year to implement data-informed violence reduction initiatives.

The money was given to five other cities across Virginia and each locality decided how to spend it.

CBS 6 asked Mayor Samuel Parham's office how the city allocated the funding. As of Monday evening, we have not heard back.

CBS 6 requested an interview with Mayor Parham to address the violence, but a spokesperson said he was busy preparing for a press conference happening Tuesday and was not available Monday.

CBS 6 requested an interview with Police Chief Travis Christian on Monday and did not hear back. Police have released limited information regarding suspects or a motive in the four shooting investigations underway since Friday.

Meanwhile, community members said they will continue to cling to hope for a brighter future for Petersburg.

“Invest back into the people and you will see a change," Bradley said.

“I wish I knew the solution," Williams said. "My faith is strong. There's nowhere to go but up."

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