Fort Worth

Fort Worth Initiative Looks to Curb Teen Gun Violence

The partnership brings existing violence prevention programs into Fort Worth schools

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In response to recent shootings involving teenagers, a new Fort Worth initiative aims to curb teen gun violence.

Launched Tuesday, the Fort Worth Violence Intervention program, led by District 8 councilman Chris Nettles, brings existing violence prevention organizations into local Fort Worth schools.

The initiative’s first presentations were held at Polytechnic High School in Fort Worth, where speakers shared their personal experiences with gun violence in hopes of inspiring students to make better choices.

Ronny Mitchell spoke on behalf of the group Unity Over Violence.

“The hardest thing to do right now in Dallas-Fort Worth is you make it to 25-years-old. That’s the hardest thing to do right now. That’s sad that we are losing kids at the age of 18 and 19,” Mitchell said. “I want you to listen to me and listen to me good. Take this opportunity. Take this opportunity to do something with your life.”

A spokesperson for the Fort Worth Police Department confirmed Tuesday there have been 36 homicides in the city of Fort Worth in 2022 as of May 5. At that point in 2021, there were 33. Councilman Nettles said the inspiration behind the new initiative came from the recent cases of violent crime, pointing to the deadly late April shooting of a Crowley High School senior.

Rashard Guinyard,17, was described as a standout scholar and student-athlete who ran track and had planned to attend Abilene Christian University.

“My heart is there. To see kids lose their lives, that have scholarships, and have a family that cares so much about them, it just put a fire in my foot that said 'you can do something',” Nettles said. “My message to [students] was, will they be the one that will be part of the process and not the problem?”

Nettles told the crowd of students Tuesday that he is a father of four children between 5 and 15. The issue of violence is something he has spoken with his own kids about.

“I talk to my kids about being a leader, being an example and watching who you hang around with. I mentioned it today, you are who you hang around. Two things happen. You can become them, or they can become you,” he said.

Melinda Hamilton, founder of Mothers Of Murdered Angels, also spoke to the students Tuesday. Hamilton lost her daughter Shemeka Rodriquez, 25, in June 2018 along with her grandson Derrick Johnson in March 2020 to gun violence.

“My grandson was 19. He had just graduated that year. He was getting to go to the Navy and everything,” Hamilton said. “They were innocent people. It wasn’t like they were in a gang or nothing like that. They got killed for no reason. Shemika had gotten off work. She was over with a friend.”

Hamilton’s group is dedicated to helping families navigate the legal and financial processes of losing a loved one to violent crimes, and it is now partnering with the new initiative launched this week.

“I have been speaking on it because I mean…it’s needed. These kids are killing each other,” Hamilton said. “We are survivors. We’re not the victims. We’re survivors right now. We know our babies are gone, but we can help somebody else.”

Nettles said they plan to also visit Dunbar and Everman High Schools before the end of the 2021-2022 school year, adding they want to work with other schools that may be interested.

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