These recent violent crimes in Starkville all have one thing in common.
They’re suspected to involved either teens or young adults.
Pastor Abdural Lee of Sand Creek Chaple Missionary Baptist Church says he was heartbroken to hear about another violent crime in Starkville involving teenagers.
“Gunfire goes off, kids playing in the park, you never know where those bullets are going to end up,” he said.
Starkville Police responded to a shots fired call at McKee Park just after 9 p.m. While families gathered to watch their kids play little league, a basketball game on the nearby court turned violent, ending in a drive-by shooting.
Jaylen Harrison, Karon Hawk, Jamarkus Hood, Antonio Roland, and Levaris Williams were all arrested and charged with drive-by shooting and gambling. All five are between 17 and 19 years old.
Lee says it’s the latest example of how things have gotten out of control.
“Incidents where a fight could break out, they (used to) shake hands before,” Lee said. “But now, children are being able to go to their cars and get weapons.”
No one was injured, this time.
“Now’s the time to have that discussion, to be able to find solutions,” Police Chief Mark Ballard told WCBI in January. “In order to prevent our children from growing up into a lifestyle that’s going to guarantee them into incarceration, or into tragedy.”
Since then, Lee says the police chief has been meeting with him and other community leaders on a regular basis to find a long-term solution.
“He really showed us he has a heart for this community,” Lee said. “That has really helped us a lot, to see his heart and wanting to see things better in this community has driven us a lot further than ever before.”
Lee says the group plans to hold a prayer walk on May 23rd, in coordination with Chief Ballard and the mayor, that will end with a large block party. The hope is that it can be the first of many such events to put area youth on the right path.
“What can we come up with that can keep them occupied and away from trouble,” Lee said, describing the heart of their mission.
As they build momentum, the pastor says the group hopes to host meal giveaways and sports camps.
“Let the community know how much we care, actually, they’ll start to come in,” Lee said. “Things will change.”
Lee says one of the most important steps in creating that lasting change will be getting parents more involved.