TAMPA, Fla. — It’s a community no one would ever wish to be a part of, the group of people who have lost loved ones to gun violence.
Saturday night, dozens of them gathered at Ragan Park in Tampa to hold a candlelight vigil to honor their loved ones.
A woman by the name of Vivian Heyward started the annual vigil more than two decades ago when she lost her own son to gun violence.
“We have to take a moment to pause to just make sure that we recognize that life is so precious, and life is so important, and just one life is one life too many to lose to senseless gun violence,” said Freddy Barton, Executive Director of Safe and Sound Hillsborough, and the emcee of Saturday’s vigil.
Community members, elected leaders, police officers, and organizations showed up Saturday hoping to raise awareness to put an end to the tragedy.
One of those organizations was Rise Up for Peace, which was founded by Patricia Brown who lost her own son to gun violence in Tampa last March.
“This is a parent’s worst nightmare, for somebody to come knock on your door to tell you that your child has been murdered over something senseless,” said Brown.
Brown says her son Devante had just come home from work when he got caught in the crossfire of a shooting. The person who shot him has not been identified.
“It’s heartbreaking because you have people that know what’s going on and what happened and won’t say anything, and it just, like everyday I pray and hope that they find the person, they come forth,” said Brown.
Brown urges members of the community to come forward with information they may have about the loss of her son, or any others. That’s something they’re all urging, as they work to raise awareness of the problem within our community.
“You may not think this is your problem because it didn’t happen to you, or you don’t live in a certain neighborhood, but gun violence and violence in general affects everyone,” said Barton.
Gun violence is something police chiefs on both sides of the bay have shared concern over, especially in the last year as the high numbers of homicides increased in the Tampa Bay area.
Law enforcement say one of the most important things in helping bring people to justice is collaboration with the community, and they urge people, if you see or hear something, say something.