On Sunday, there was the fourth annual “2 Mile March and Rally 2 Stop Gang Violence.” Rain threatened and the PA system sputtered. But the crowd was fervent. I ran into Ray Wood, head of UAW Local 14 and the NAACP. He told me: “This is what matters most now. We need to address our youth, to stop the violence, and to build the community.”
Last week, I went to the Toledo Public Safety Building to meet Sgt. Anita Madison and learn more about Toledo’s TCIRV anti-gang program. While I waited in the lobby, I met a woman who is the aunt of the girlfriend of Tyler McIntoush. He was a boy of 16, shot and killed last week on Collingwood Boulevard.
This lady told me her niece was with police officers being questioned, and that she came to the station to support her. The niece is 17.
“Seventeen is awfully young to experience something like that,” I said.
When I was 17, growing up in a small town in central Ohio, the only deaths I had experienced were of my grandfather on my Mom’s side and my grandmother on my Dad’s. I recall the deaths of a few teens in car accidents.
Those were shocks, not the norm. I knew little of death and nothing of violence or tragedy. In my life then, tragedy was not making the basketball team.
We have a generation of kids growing up in our cities today in violence. In hell.
The aunt said to me that day: “When I was 17, I had buried 10 family members.”
Sixteen and 17-year-old kids dying, killing, and well-accustomed to dying and killing. A young police officer told me: “These kids aren’t afraid to die. So you have to find another way to reach them.”
Consider this paragraph in last week’s paper by my colleague Taylor Dungjen — a hard right to the solar plexus:
“The McIntoush youth is the youngest to be killed by gunfire in Toledo this year. He is the second 16-year-old to be shot this week, which has seen one shooting every day since Monday. Since Jan. 1 there have been 79 shootings in the city. Eighteen of the victims are teenagers, the youngest being 15.”
This cannot stand.
I know that gun violence in this city, in any city, is not a simple matter. There is no one cause. There is no one solution — no “solution,” per se, at all.
But — but — we have to do better.
And we have to try things. TCIRV, which I will be writing more about in coming days, jobs programs, curfews, more cops, drug treatment programs.
Try everything. Heck, I’d call in the National Guard for a few weeks to secure the streets if necessary.
But we can’t slough off children being gunned down in our neighborhoods. We have to secure our streets. Make people secure in their homes. Protect our youth — and their chance at being youth.
Tyler McIntoush is dead at 16. He was a good kid. He had a job. He was in school. He walked his girlfriend home every night from her job so she would be safe.
Mr. Wood is right. This is the thing that matters most now. This has to stop.
Keith C. Burris is a columnist for The Blade.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6266.