JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Rain canceled a community walk Thursday night in the Ken Knight area of Northwest Jacksonville, but it didn't stop city and community leaders from coming together to address gun violence and plans to improve conditions in the area.
During the community meeting at St. Paul Baptist Church, Bishop John Guns came right out and said the meeting was not about politics. Instead, he said it was about bridging gaps in the community to make it safer.
"Put our egos aside. Put our personal agendas aside," Guns said. "If you never looked into the eyes of a grieving mother, then don't tell me you care."
Northwest Jacksonville has been a hotbed for gun violence. Most recently last Friday, when police said Robert Howard, 16, shot three people following a high school football game, killing one of them.
"We're burying our children. We're losing them, not only to violence, but suicide," Guns said. "Our neighborhoods are in a level of conflict."
"I lost a son in a drive-by shooting," Anthony Stinson Sr. said. "It's nobody's fault but the person who pulled the trigger."
Tamika Jackson is a mother who lives in Northwest Jacksonville. She said gun violence is her biggest concern.
“I have a son in high school and I’m scared for him every single day of my life," Jackson said. "We all have to play a part in this."
Jackson, who presented her ideas during the meeting, suggested the city extend its summer work program for teenagers to keep them busy. She also suggested JSO extend its annual gun buyback program.
Mayor Lenny Curry said the city is investing in public safety to get violent criminals off the streets and prevent kids from turning to a life of crime. But he said government can't do it alone.
"Get involved in the life of a young person that needs it," Curry said.
The mayor said a grant worth more than $1 million will go toward improving the area so neighbors can enjoy a better quality of life.
"There's going to be hundreds of thousands of dollars going into renovating homes, and to jobs, job training and infrastructure," Curry said.
City Councilwoman Ju'Coby Pittman said improving the area and making it safer won't happen overnight. She said pointing fingers won't solve the problems.
"Someone's always going to talk about what you're not doing. What have you done lately?" Pittman said.
Thursday's community walk will be rescheduled for a later date.