Tampa Community Holds Crusade Against Gun Violence

Tampa Police Chief O’Connor and parents who’ve lost their children to gun violence discussed solutions to curb the problem.

TAMPA, Fla. — Pastor Clarence Nathan said he got a call at 3 a.m. Saturday from his nephew. One of his nephew’s sons had just been shot, he said. 

Hours later, the New Victory Baptist Church pastor is at Ragan Park, helping organize what’s been dubbed the “Tampa Stop The Gun Violence Crusade.”

“This is a nationwide problem,” Pastor Nathan, also president of Pastors on Patrol said. “It has to be brought to a conclusion.”

Family members who’ve lost children to gun violence, along with city and county leaders attended Saturday’s gathering, including recently appointed Tampa Police Chief Mary O’Connor. Efforts to brainstorm solutions have been going on already, but community members said more needs to be done.

Clarence said the death of Sunni Bell further sparked the need for a gathering. Bell was a 4-year-old girl shot and killed while riding in the backseat of her mother’s car, according to Tampa Police. 

O’Connor said she wants to crack cases gone cold. 

“Let’s stop this one shooting at a time and let’s start today,” O’Connor said.

She and other speakers said they’re urging anyone who knows something to speak up to authorities. That one lead may hold the people responsible accountable, they said. 

Speakers also encouraged parents to have conversations with their children about the problem. Prevention education among youth is key, Commissioner Gwen Myers of Hillsborough County said. 

“If we don’t stop this thing, there’s gonna be nowhere that’s gonna be safe for us to go with our families,” Nathan said.

Community members are aiming to pack Alfred “Al” Barnes Park on April 30 to address solutions aimed at curbing gun violence. The initiative is in partnership of Rise Up For Peace and the Tampa Police Department.

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