PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Gun violence among young people is the focus of a renewed search for solutions in the Allegheny district.
On December 15, 2020, shortly after midnight, six shots were fired in Penn Hills that instantly killed 15-year-old Jafar Brooks. He was a student of Central Catholic High School and the grandson of community organizer Rashad Byrdsong, who worked for 30 years preventing the deaths of other young people.
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“We have been in violence prevention for some time, working with families who have lost children to violence, but there is greater meaning and emotional understanding when it happens to you,” he said.
Amid the shocking spike in youth killings this year, Byrdsong and his Community Empowerment Association are calling on schools, hospitals, government and outreach groups to band together and develop a compressive strategy to stop the slaughter.
“Our children are our future and we need to make sure we create safe places for them, that we are part of their growth and development,” said Byrdsong.
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Of the 88 murders in Allegheny County that year, the vast majority of victims were in their teens and twenties. So far, 21 of the victims were between 11 and 20 years old. 35 were between 21 and 30 years old.
But the killing of 15-year-old Central Catholic student Steven Eason has resulted in security measures such as banning fans from high school football matches and a determination to address the crisis.
Byrdsong will hold a stakeholder meeting on Thursday evening. The psychologist and violent interventionist Dr. Staci Ford arrives but wants this to be more than just another meeting where people are talking.
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“There is enough for everyone to sit at the table and use their brain, manpower and resources to make a difference, because that has to stop. We can’t keep losing our young people, ”said Ford.