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He was a gang member in Memphis. Now, he's helping end gun violence in Richmond.

"They want someone they can relate to."
Richmond Police Chaplain.jpg
Posted at 11:31 PM, May 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-18 05:58:20-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Forty years ago, Cruz Sherman was heavily involved in Memphis street life. Now, he's in the streets of Richmond for another reason.

Sherman works alongside faith leaders and other community members as part of Richmond's RESET Team, spreading their presence through neighborhoods after tragic events to help the residents who call it home.

He is also closing in on graduation as a Richmond Police chaplain.

Both Richmond and Petersburg have recently suffered from an outbreak of deadly violence.

On Monday alone in Creighton Court, three people were shot within two-and-a-half hours. One of those victims died at the scene.

"Rather than walking away from them, I walked to them and said, I'm gonna go a block down and talk to them and that's what I did," Sherman said.

His experiences in Memphis make him a perfect ear for listening to why violence is erupting on city streets.

"All I talked to were in agreement and there were about 12 out there, including females, and they told me they're tired of the talk," Sherman said. "They want someone they can relate to and that resonated with me. It's what they want. Somebody who understands what the hell is going on and reasons why we are having issues, not only there, but all over the damn city."

So far in 2022, Petersburg has seen seven murders and more than three dozen shootings. Richmond has seen 23 homicides with more than 80 people being shot.

Petersburg is enduring a particularly vicious two-week cycle of violence.

"We are not getting many calls from the public offering information right now," Petersburg Deputy Chief Emanuel Chambliss said. "We can't do it by ourselves. There has to be a partnership between us and the community."

Richmond has had its share too, with Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith saying his department will be aggressive in combating crime in the months to come.

"Our Redball Crew, a task force, is out there," Smith said. "They've taken 180 guns so far. Their primary goal is to target those who pull the trigger and get guns off the street. Now we will activate patrol for this summer to make the city even safer."

"What we really gotta do is start squashing some of this stuff and get out in front of it before we see two shootings at 4 p.m. and then another at 8 p.m. There could be one in Henrico, another in Petersburg. It's happening all across the nation," Sherman said.

Sherman said that in order for the violence to stop, city leaders have to listen to the city's youth with an open mind.

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