As police in Lynchburg continue to investigate last weekend’s deadly shooting on Rivermont Avenue, dozens gathered near the location of the shooting for a discussion aimed at stopping the violence.
“You never know what life can throw at you and how fast and how quickly it can change,” said Angelena Garland, one of the speakers at the meeting.
Garland was one of the four people shot in the early morning hours of September 18. Garland, who was shot in her foot and leg, shared her story with those who gathered for the Stop the Violence discussion at the Jazz E. Ellington House of Blues and Multicultural Center.
“I want to sit here and talk to the youth, you know, the young ones and the ones that are my age,” Garland said. “It is not too late to change your mind if you’re in a position that you don’t want to be in.”
Several speakers from the community, including from the Lynchburg Police, offered their ideas on ways to help make the community safer.
“This really sent shockwaves through the community because we had made so many strides in reinventing ourselves,” said Brian Richie, a community activist who addressed the group.
Richie said he wanted to remind people about services and activities available to help keep kids off the streets.
“You hear it all the time – they say [there’s] nothing for these kids to do, nothing positive…for them to do,” he said. “But there are.”
Organizers of the discussion said meetings like this one allow neighbors to voice their own needs and concerns as well.
“We can come up with all the programs that we want to come up with,” said Cynthia Merchant, CEO of the Jazz E. Ellington House of Blues and Multicultural Center. “But if it doesn’t facilitate what the actual people need, it’s a waste of time.”
The event also served as a benefit for the family of Shawn Johnson, Jr., who was killed in the shooting. The multicultural center plans on hosting another meeting like this one in the near future, Merchant said.