Under the Gun - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

SPECIAL REPORT: Under the Gun

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Gun related violence continues and some say it's only going to get worse unless something changes. Source: WLBT Gun related violence continues and some say it's only going to get worse unless something changes. Source: WLBT
There have now been 37 murders in Jackson. This time last year, there were 20.  Source: WLBT There have now been 37 murders in Jackson. This time last year, there were 20. Source: WLBT
Some of the gun violence is impromptu; arguments escalating out of control.  Source: WLBT Some of the gun violence is impromptu; arguments escalating out of control. Source: WLBT
JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Shots fired! Two words you hear on Jackson police scanners almost daily.

Just two days ago, a stray bullet struck a 45-year-old man in the neck in the 26-hundred block of Pine Tree Drive off McDowell Road in south Jackson. He survived.

But the gun related violence continues and some say it's only going to get worse unless something changes.

Yellow cards, each one numbered, dot the playground pavement on Lilly Street in Jackson. Police use them to mark shell casings, at least 20 of them, this time, from an argument that ended in a hail of gunfire. Nineteen-year-old Jabari Day was killed.

That was on a Tuesday in May. Two days later, a little boy was asleep in his bed when bullets ripped through his parents' Queen Marie Lane home. Armon Burton never woke up. The 3-year-old had been shot and died of his injury.

June 24th, 25-year-old Dexter Myles was shot and killed in the parking lot of the Fueltime Exxon gas station on Terry Road. Less than an hour later, another 25-year-old man was shot to death at the Reserve of Jackson apartment complex off River Oaks Boulevard.

There have now been 37 murders in Jackson. This time last year, there were 20. Most of these deaths were caused by guns. Since January, there have been 446 gun related crimes reported in the capital city.

"Everybody talk about the crime from the 90's compared to now," said former Jackson drug dealer Tim Liddell. "This summer here, will be the worst summer we've ever seen if we don't get something for these kids to do."

The 40-year-old Liddell speaks from experience. He and 37-year-old John Christopher Knight grew up on the mean streets of Washington Addition. Both got into the drug trade and both paid for it with prison time.

"So, I was blessed by God to be out; get another chance in life to start over and try to help, because I caused a lot of chaos out here dealing drugs," said Knight, also a former drug dealer on the streets of Jackson.

"Guns just like gas. They're plentiful, everywhere, and it's a shame to say that it's easier to get a gun in Jackson than it is to get a job," added Knight.

"We have a big problem with conflict resolution in our city." said Jackson assistant police chief Lee Vance.

He said some of the gun violence is impromptu; arguments escalating out of control, but he says much of it is the by-product of the illegal drug trade.

"So, a lot of the children that we see, ending up in some of this violence are simply kids that have been abandoned," continued Vance. "Because you've got a lot of addicted parents and they're not there to care for these kids."

It is a concern echoed by Liddell, who admits he had to raise himself because of an addicted single parent. And it disturbs him that neighborhoods like Washington Addition, often are not kid-friendly.

"I hate to see kids like this," said Liddell. "Just look at them. They don't have nothing to do. It ain' t a basketball goal around here."

Liddell and Knight would like to see an abandoned building turned into a safe haven for children in the neighborhood among other things.

"We have to get out here on these streets," said Knight. "We have to get in these schools. We have to go everywhere we need to go to get people to understand that it's very serious."

The message is not lost on Jackson's new mayor, Tony Yarber. He has been conducting listening tours since taking office and rejects the notion of a long hot summer in terms of crime.

"Our police department is being strategic at this point in identifying hot spots, applying necessary resources in those hot spots and we're making sure we are aligning with the justice system, our judges, the district attorney, to insure after the police department has done do diligence, that justice is applied swiftly and exactly."

"Howard, no matter what law enforcement does. No matter what courts do. No matter how many people we put in jail, and we put a lot in jail, somehow we've got to understand that personal responsibility has a place in the solution for all of this," added Vance.

For Tim Liddell and John Christopher Knight, that message of personal responsibility and their new mission is crystal clear.

"The average 14-year-old, 2 out of 2, either know where a gun at or got one and there's no way to control it other than us trying to talk to them and letting them confide in us and maybe help and they turn the guns over; give them a new way of life," said Liddell. "If you don't give them a new way of life, they will continue to do the same thing they doing now."

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