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Coaches: 16-year-old's killing senseless

Community to gather for town hall meeting Friday night

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The community is coming together Friday night in the wake of the ongoing violence plaguing Northwest Jacksonville and the most recent shooting death of 16-year-old Devron Crowden.

Two of those people affected by Crowden's death are Coach Will and Coach Bird, who were Crowden's football coaches at Grand Park Athletic Association and spent time with him in the years after he stopped playing.

"It's hard to imagine coming out here and him not going to be around," one coach said.

The both said his killing is senseless.

"I have seen it over the years, but this one here really hit home," one coach said. "Man, life is not a PlayStation game. You can't turn the light on and off, man."

The coaches said Crowden was funny and a good football player.

"He might play Normandy, he's going to block the skin off somebody," Coach Will said. "We go play forest fire, he might want to take the day off. But at the same time, through it all, he was never disrespectful. Never disrespectful. Very respectable kid."

Crowden was shot and killed Wednesday, about a half-mile away as he waited to catch the bus to Raines High School. His death made him the fifth person younger than 18 shot and killed in Northwest Jacksonville this year.

"It's really sad to see, you know, 16-, 17-, 15-, 14-year-olds getting shot," said Anthony Stinson, president of the athletic association.

Stinson said his son was killed in a drive-by shooting. He knew Crowden, 14-year-old James Thomas, who was shot and killed this summer at the center's pool, and countless other victims of violence in Grand Park.

"I honestly don't know if it's gang-related, but I know a lot of these kids hang together," Stinson said.

Hanging together and making videos like one posted online showing young people waving guns is part of the problem, Stinson said, because teens don't take the images and possible consequences seriously.

"A lot of them say, 'Oh, it's just rap music,' but I mean, when you start waving guns and saying, 'I'm going to do this and going to do that,' then that's when it ceases to be fun. It's not fun," Stinson said.

And while he, Coach Will and Coach Bird do their best to support and mentor the young people they work with at Grand Park, the say real change is a community effort. That's why they going to the town hall meeting Friday night to help find solutions.

"It starts at home, but it also starts with the kids," Coach Bird said. "They got to have it in their heart to stop wanting to do that. Until they stop wanting to do that, then we are going to keep going through the same things, man."

Stinson said one thing he hopes will come from the meeting is a program to help kids who may be at risk of committing crimes before it gets that far, and for more committment from the community to speak out and share information with police to help them solve crimes and make criminals think twice about committing them.

Anyone with any information in Crowden's death is asked to call Crime Stoppers 866-845-TIPS.