WPD chief, church leaders respond to youth gun violence

Published: Sep. 24, 2021 at 5:47 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Wichita police are once again coming together with local church leaders, asking for help to curb the rise in youth gun and gang violence. It’s a partnership in which the community leaders ask citizens to be part of the solution. This comes after recent violence in which three Wichita teens were injured and one killed during school hours. Police said the victims and suspects and both shootings were involved with gang activity.

“We need help. We want to ask the community, we need each other,” Praise Chapel Wichita Pastor Albert Paredes said of addressing the problem.

Paredes and St. James A.M.E. Pastor Odell Harris Jr., along with Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay are pleading for more proactive measures to stop the violence.

“We’re being very reactive at times and I know we have a lot of proactive measures, but we just got to continue to reach our young people,” Harris said. “They’re starving for love, they’re seeking attention and love from the wrong places.”

Six teenage boys were arrested this week in connection to the two separate shootings during school hours. On Thursday, 16-year-old Azuri Jones was killed and three teens arrested for first-degree murder.

“We saw more gang-related violence and that has continued into this year,” Ramsay said. “So last year, we created the Juvenile Intervention Unit that is intended to go proactively and get ahead of kids that are on the fence. And our goal is to divert them from that lifestyle.”

Despite those efforts, homicides involving minors as victims or suspects have continued to increase, with nine this year.

“It that doesn’t rock our community, what will?” Harris said. “What does it take? How many more kids? When is enough? It is going to have to be your family?”

These are questions are ones the pastors hope to answer with more community members working together.

“Community is our family, whether he be the shooter, whether he got shot at, or whether you’re going to arrest them, or you’re the pastor that’s going to do a funeral, we are all family,” Paredes said. “We are all a community. It’s going to take all of us.”

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