GRAND RAPIDS - Two teenagers injured in a drive by shooting have community leaders worrying even more about gang violence. The shooting happened Sunday morning at midnight on 33rd Street near Eastern Avenue.
A 15-year old boy and a 13-year old girl were both shot. The two teenagers were taken to the hospital, but their injuries are not considered life threatening. Police found the guns they believed were used in the shooting at a home a block away.
Witnesses say the house was hosting a party that several gang members were attending. Officially, police can't say if the drive-by shooting is gang related; however, community leaders can, and are. It may spark the next big push against youth violence.
"I don't think people have truly looked at the young people caught up in the crossfire,” says radio personality and music producer Robert S. Womack. “The shooters are not really taking it serious that people's children are getting shot who have nothing to do with this gang violence."
Robert S. has dedicated much of his airtime on 1140 WJNZ to spreading messages about youth violence. This message: it's not worth it.
"They've already seen members of each organization (gang) that have ended up in jail for life. They've seen members that have ended up in caskets, and I don't know why people would be a part of a gang and think it would happen to them,” says Womack. “I just want to let them know it can happen to you."
The Grand Rapids music producer says to weed out gangs you must catch the next generation, and help those looking to start fresh.
"Help them with employment, help them get involved and be mentors for those that want to get out,” he says. “But we need to focus on the next generation, because these gangs are recruiting kids as young as eight and nine years old, and that's a big problem for this community."
A big problem that's escalating.
In the past nine months, the Grand Rapids area has seen a triple shooting on Alexander Street, a murder at the Brickhouse, a murder at the Funspot in Kentwood, and its retaliation, an attempted murder at Woodland Mall.
But, Robert S. has hope. As he reads a letter from an incarcerated Josh Beckford, the teen convicted of the Woodland Mall stabbing, Robert realizes Beckford also wants to tell young people not to throw their lives away.
"I used to be one of the many to run around starting stuff on Eastern,” writes Beckford in his letter to Womack. “But when you see lives being taken on the streets and in the court system, you look at the things you once took for granted. It's the little things that count."
Robert S. hopes since Josh Beckford took the initiative to write the letter, he may be the right person to save some of the city's youth.
Beckford is expected to be released at the end of the year.
Robert S. also says parents need to pay attention, and help their children before it's too late.