FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) – Losing a friend to gun violence is something all too real for 17-year-old Zachary Armwood. The teen said the violence among his age group is a growing concern in the Fayetteville community.
“It’s hard, especially when you’re young. You don’t have the right community around you, so you’re quick to do the wrong thing,” said Zachary.
His friend, 16-year-old Jarious Parker, agreed. Jarious said, “A lot of people don’t have the guidance, so they’re so quick to pick up a gun.”
Both Zachary and Jarious are hopeful that community leaders are doing more to deter the violence in their community. They and several others headed to the Smith Recreation Center Monday evening to hear from officers, first responders and gun safety advocates in the first of several public workshops.
“There’s not a day that goes by that we don’t see a victim of gun violence come to our emergency department,” said Dr. Tony Grello.
Dr. Grello is the Associate Program Director for Emergency Medicine with Cape Fear Valley Health. The medical center, as well as members of The Group Theory, Inc., are working with Fayetteville officers to educate youth about the repercussions of gun violence.
“It’s just something so devastating to us because it’s preventable,” Dr. Grello said.
The workshops are part of a new program called “Stop the Bleeding.” Fayetteville Police Department Assistant Chief Kellie Berg said the program is possible through a recent grant and added, “Collaboration is huge, we need everyone who is working with children to see and understand how detrimental the violence in our community is… The best way to do that is to bring everyone together and discuss this and talk about the repercussions of these weapons.”
In addition to discussions, families and youth were also invited to take a closer look at simulations showing what first responders encounter when someone is shot. The demonstrations may have been graphic and eye-opening for some, but organizers believe the educational aspect behind it all is an accurate representation of these real-life situations.
Kevin Brooks, the Executive Director of The Group Theory, Inc., said the group took on the task of implementing community violence intervention in Fayetteville about a year ago. Brooks said, “The concept of young people committing the violence means that they’re not getting the chance to understand or implement themselves into the future of this country, the future of every community, and we need all of these younger people.”
Brooks is hopeful families will become more aware of resources available in the community and that the collaboration will lead to real change.
“What we’re seeing more than anything is that the community wants to do something about it and teachers need our assistance, parents need our assistance, law enforcement needs our assistance,” said Brooks. He added, “There are people out here that care, there are resources out here, the thing is you have to tap into that and understand we have to work with the community.”