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‘How did we get here?’ Video of Asheville complex shooting highlights gun violence crisis

<i>WLOS via CNN Newsource</i><br/>Reducing gun violence in cities across the U.S.
WLOS via CNN Newsource
Reducing gun violence in cities across the U.S.

By Kimberly King

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    ASHEVILLE, North Carolina (WLOS) — Reducing gun violence in cities across the U.S., including Asheville, is a complicated challenge. Experts say this problem requires a focused commitment by law enforcement and anti-violence community members.

Video of shooting at Asheville complex highlights gun violence crisis

This week’s video of a shootout showed multiple people armed with multiple handguns and one AR-15 in the Livingston Heights complex, which revealed the violent scene that led to 40-year-old Ashley Waddell’s death.

How did we get here?” said Michael Hall, who founded the men’s mentor ministry Be More Alive. “In a scene like this, I believe it would be getting to the root issue: why does a young person or any person feel the need to have such a weapon?

Hall has experience from growing up in Baltimore, where shootings are often a daily occurrence. He and other leaders trying to disrupt violence within inner-city communities feel that there is now a major cognitive disconnect for youth carrying guns. He says they feel indifferent to the consequences when they shoot a gun or kill another person during a fight.

Hall’s work in Asheville is to mentor and help youth find another way to deal with anger rather than arming themselves.

“It takes somebody with some lived experience and training to be able to go into a community like this where the men never get talked to about what’s going on in their head, and why when pressure comes or a situation arises, they automatically go to [a gun],” said Hall.

Hall and other leaders like Michael Hayes, director of Umoja Health Justice Collective, and Keynon Lake, who founded the youth mentoring non-profit My Daddy Taught Me That, are working to address these problems.

Hall is calling on more adult black men in Asheville to get involved in mentoring programs and help disrupt the gun violence that has put this small mountain town in the headlines for more than three years.

Police in Buffalo, N.Y. are gaining traction in reducing shootings and homicides with a data-driven program that includes creating a grid to analyze crime hot spots.

“We took our city and divided it into 500-foot by 500-foot grids,” said Joe Gramaglia, Buffalo’s police commissioner. “We look for where the data is starting to group together in a particular grid or grids, whether it be shots fired or confirmed shots fired. Once we have that data, we get that data out to our commands and we do what’s called a directed patrol.”

Gramaglia and his leadership in Buffalo have received national recognition for the focused program that is lowering shootings.

In 2021, Buffalo had close to 300 shootings. That number dropped to 141 in 2023. The city had 59 shooting homicides in 2021 and 2022. In 2023, there were 25.

Gramaglia said the department focuses on data for a 90-day window, maintaining that focus with updated data every three months.

Officers are assigned to hot-spot areas as a deterrent and as an outreach for the districts experiencing crime.

“We’ll have police officers every hour get into a particular grid for ten, fifteen minutes, park the police car and put the flashers on your overhead flashers and then get out of the car,” he said.

The officer will then talk with residents to engage and build trust.

The old days of going to a hot spot and starting to arrest people… we saw that really didn’t work,” said Gramaglia. “It eroded the trust in the community. With this success in reducing Buffalo’s gun violence, Gramaglia and several other police chiefs were recently invited to Washington D.C. to meet with President Biden and share their successes with programs to reduce gun violence.

Gramaglia said that these programs are not just about community trust building, but also about making it clear that citizens must abide by the law.

In Buffalo and other cities across the nation, anti-violence leaders and organizations play an important role in supporting the cause to stop shootings, murders and the tragedy that unfolds with each gun death.

In Asheville, Isaiah Waddell is charged with attempted murder in the Livingston Heights shooting. The Asheville Police Department reports that more arrests in the case are expected soon.

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