Organizers of Taking Back Pine Bluff, the anti-crime community group, had spent weeks preparing for Saturday's vigil, realizing at the last minute they had to add another name to the list of victims after Kenneth Davis, 46, was fatally shot Friday on University Drive.
Organizers of Taking Back Pine Bluff, the anti-crime community group, had spent weeks preparing for Saturday’s vigil, realizing at the last minute they had to add another name to the list of victims after Kenneth Davis, 46, was fatally shot Friday on University Drive.
White balloons representing Jefferson County’s homicide victims for 2011 were released in their memory at the vigil. Friday’s slaying was the 19th of the year in the county and the 17th inside the Pine Bluff city limits.
The vigil was a memorial for these victims, to let their families and the community know that the 19 have not been forgotten. Participants gathered at the Big Rec building in Townsend Park with hopes of planting the seeds of a murder-free future for Pine Bluff.
John James with Taking Back Pine Bluff emphasized organizers want to show there are people who care, “that someone is fighting on their behalf, that there are positive things going on in this community.”
The goals include holding one social event a month for the next year as part of a plan to promote change in the community, rallies on the street corners, conducting discussions and activities through the group’s Facebook page and a planned website.
Mothers and fathers, spouses, children and brothers and sisters of the 19 individuals who died from violence could fill the Big Rec to overflowing each month. The number of victims of this senseless violence includes family members and friends.
Marnell Ashley attended the vigil to support the organization and to honor his brother, Walter Ashley Jr., 39, who was killed in a shooting outside a Pine Bluff nightclub in mid-November. Marnell’s initial reaction – anger – was understandable when he heard that another murder had occurred on Friday. The similarities to the circumstances of his brother’s death and Friday’s murder were striking: “They both got shot because of things that they had nothing to do with.”
The accused killer in Walter Ashley’s death is 18 and the accused slayer in Davis’ death is 26. “It’s just nonsense. You can’t get a life back once you take it,” Ashley said. “I hope it (the vigil) sends a positive message to everyone so we can stop some of this violence and nonsense.”
If Take Back Pine Bluff is successful, participants must be prepared to take back control of the streets one street at a time. It means helping police prevent crimes and helping officers when the crimes occur.
If, as police suspect, drugs were involved in Friday’s deadly shooting spree, sensible residents must be prepared to help stop the trafficking. Friends, neighbors and family members are dying at a rate three times the national average.
Veteran officers said the pattern of behavior exhibited by the man taken into custody in Friday’s murder had the hallmarks associated with a drug known as “wet” – a combination of cocaine and PCP that is smoked. The users of the deadly combination are overly aggressive, violent, seem oblivious to pain and demonstrate almost inhuman strength.
The suspect is accused of killing Davis, wounding three other adults with gunfire, wrecking two cars taken in carjackings, allegedly fighting violently with arresting officers, briefly escaping custody at a hospital and having to be physically subdued after he didn’t react to a Taser or stun gun.
Individuals who have consumed “wet” have also managed to resist arrest when sprayed with pepper spray and Mace.
Friday’s crime spree included a dozen felony charges: One count of capital murder, one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm, three counts of first-degree battery and seven counts of committing a terroristic act.
No one said taking the streets back from criminals will be easy, but there is no other sane alternative.