Tampa police, local leaders call on community for solutions to end gun violence

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Posted at 5:27 PM, Dec 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-28 18:47:42-05

TAMPA, Fla. — Community leaders and Tampa police are asking for people to come together and help find solutions to gun violence in the city while hosting a community forum on gun violence Tuesday evening.

Not a moment goes by where LaMaria Smith doesn’t think of her daughter.

”I would love to see my daughter walk through that door one day and say, ‘Mom, hey, how you doing,’ and it just is not going to happen,” said Smith.

Savannah Mathis, 21, was shot and killed earlier this monthwhile driving near Julian B. Lane Park in Tampa. The aspiring nurse’s life was cut short by gun violence.

“We were planning my daughter’s birthday party, not planning a funeral,” said Smith. “Your kid could simply be in the wrong place at the wrong time like my daughter was.”

On Tuesday evening, Tampa Police’s Interim Chief will be hosting his first community forum, an open discussion for solutions to addressing gun violence in the community.

Tampa police sent ABC Action News crime statistics on gun violence over the last few years:

  • There have been 243 total shooting victims in 2021 citywide YTD.
    • 194 are non-fatal.
    • 82 of those shootings were in East Tampa this year.
  • In 2020, there were 219 total shooting victims citywide.
  • In 2019, there were 121 total shooting victims citywide.

“One death is one death too many,” said Johnny Johnson, co-founder of Rise Up for Peace.

Johnson and Patricia Brown are both part of Rise Up for Peace, an organization made up of parents who lost their children to gun violence. Brown lost her son in 2020 and will speak at Tuesday’s forum.

“I wouldn’t wish this pain on no parent, no family member, nobody,” said Brown, the organization's founder. “This is a pain that will never go away.”

When asked about solutions to the problem, Johnson thinks it’ll take a community effort.

“It’s going to take us coming together. What we’re going to do tonight, sit down, and listen to each other,” said Johnson. “The quieter we become, the more we can hear, and hear the people out at ground zero. We’re going to have to be going to where the incidents are happening in the areas that need the attention. Let’s go down here and talk to the people and see what’s going on.”

Smith believes the problem starts at home and that it’s going to take people stepping up and showing up in the community to help make a change.

“Blood doesn’t make you a parent. Anybody can be a parent,” said Smith. “We need to come out. We need to organize different functions to have these kids talk about gun violence. Talk about you pulling the trigger, that’s your life gone too.”

Tuesday’s community forum on gun violence is from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Jackson Heights YET Center at 3310 East Lake Ave. The Interim Chief will address what the department is doing and new initiatives he's putting in place to help combat the problem.

Tampa police say this is the first of a series of community forums that will take place in each district, which are open to the public.