Jacksonville no exception: Young black men most likely to die violently

3 killed in Southside drive-by among discouraging local, national statistics

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The bodies of three young black men killed Tuesday in a drive-by shooting on Town Center Parkway are now at the Medical Examiner's Office, and statistics show that, unfortunately, they are not alone.

According to 2015 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African-Americans aged 18-34 are nine times more likely to die from homicides than whites in the same age groups.

News4Jax records show that Tuesday night's violent killings of Trevon Bullard, 18, Jercoby Groover, 19, and Royale D'Von Smith Jr., 18, brought the total of black males killed in Jacksonville this year to 25. Of those victims, 20 were between the ages of 15 and 34. That means African-American males in that age bracket account for just under 42 percent of the 48 homicides in Jacksonville this year. 

According to the CDC, homicide is the leading cause of death -- by a large margin -- for black males age 15-24, accounting for nearly 50 percent of fatalities.

That rate is significantly lower for males who are white, Hispanic, Asian or American Indian.

Changing the culture

Leonard Chatman Jr., a youth mentor, speaker and author on a mission, said young African-American men are at the center of crime all too often as both victims and perpetrators. He's even experienced that violence firsthand.

“I’ve been robbed at gunpoint here in Jacksonville. My cousin was murdered Dec. 30 of 2012. He was taken away from our family. It hurts to this day. That’s why I'm here,” Chatman said.

Chatman blames today’s culture and a lack of role models for the disappointing statistics.

“That’s why I'm on a relentless pursuit, because I’m not going to lose another generation to gun violence,” Chatman said. “We’ve got to stop glamorizing violence. We’ve got to stop romanticizing the fact that if you commit a crime or if you carry a gun, that that makes you a man. That doesn’t make you a man.”

Lucy McBath's son never got to be a man because of a man with a gun. Jordan Davis was 17 years old when he was shot and killed in 2012 at a Jacksonville gas station a few miles from Tuesday night's deadly drive-by. Davis was also in a vehicle with three other friends, but the others all survived.

“It brings it back for me all over again,” McBath said of the painful flashbacks evoked by Tuesday's gun violence.

McBath is now running for Congress in Georgia, and one of her platforms is reducing such violence with stricter laws and more education.

“It is just such a sense of moral decay,” McBath said of today's culture. “It is such a lack of dignity and respect for life.”

Changing that culture is an uphill battle, but McBath and Chatman said they aren't giving up.

“I have a great family, a great wife, and it’s time that we start addressing that as well,” Chatman said. “And let our new young people know that the life of having a family, being a husband, having a wife, taking care of your children, that’s a great life.”

A life worth living -- rather than dying -- for.

About the Authors:

A Jacksonville native and proud University of North Florida alum, Francine Frazier has been with News4Jax since 2014 after spending nine years at The Florida Times-Union.

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.