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The Suburbanite
  • Charita Goshay: No easy answers to gun-violence problem

  • It must take a massive amount of courage to venture out into public when your son has been accused of murder. But Delesa Montgomery and her husband, Sean, are doing so because they say it’s more important than what people think of them.

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  • It must take a massive amount of courage to venture out into public when your son has been accused of murder. But Delesa Montgomery and her husband, Sean, are doing so because they say it’s more important than what people think of them.
    On Monday, the couple took part in a gathering of concerned citizens and public officials at the Greater Stark County Urban League, to discuss what can be done to stem the rising tide of gun violence.
    Last month, Mrs. Montgomery’s son, Dominique Williams, 22, was arrested and charged with killing Jerrel J. Johnson, 22, in a nightclub in Perry Township.
    “I want to prevent another mother from feeling this pain,” she said. “...These guns have to be removed from the street. I don’t know — I don’t have the answers.”
    Delesa Montgomery admits her son was enamored with local gangs, but was not a member. She said he lost two jobs because of fights with gang members; that his journal was filled with despair about life in Canton.
    “The family begged him to leave town,” she recalled.
    “It has to be a community effort. It’s going to take everybody doing a little more than we’re used to doing,” Sean Montgomery said. “What bothers me is the access to guns that are not registered.”
    Investigators still have not said how Williams allegedly got access to a gun in the nightclub, which has metal detectors.
    Vince Watts, CEO and executive director of the Greater Stark County Urban League, said the latest killing was too close for comfort.
    DOING MORE
    “My daughter was at the club that night,” he said. “I haven’t seen her in days because she’s (staying with the) girlfriend of the young man who was killed. I don’t understand gang culture; I don’t understand how it works. I know that we don’t need a 200-person session of pointing fingers.”
    Canton Police Chief Bruce Lawver, and Safety Director Thomas Ream said the demise of the Community Initiative to Reduce Violence; a 40-percent reduction in jail space, and a disconnect between law enforcement and social-service agencies, all have contributed to a spike in gun crime and “revolving door” justice.
    “Our serious crimes were trending downward, even though we had (fewer) officers,” Ream said. “When they closed those beds, the reduction flattened.”
     “That was the dynamic that changed the impact of what we were doing as a police department,” Lawver added. “Every day, people were getting up, committing burglaries and robberies, and we had no place to put them when we caught them — and we were catching them.”
    BIGGER THAN BEDS
    But some contended the issue is bigger than jail space.
    Page 2 of 2 - “We do not do a good job as parents,” the Rev. Joseph Morgan Jr. said bluntly. “We must take responsibility. We have no control over kids who are 4 and 5 years old; we might as well tell the truth. It’s got to start at home.”
    Noting that his grandmother is the reason he avoided trouble, Watts said families must fight harder.
    “There may not be enough beds in the jail, but there’s always a bed at grandma’s house,” he said.
    “We’re so good at being reactive,” said Veronica Early, a behavioral expert. “We are so good at building jails. Kids don’t care about being locked up; it’s a badge of courage. A lot of them feel like it’s not safe on the streets. ‘The police can’t protect me, my parents can’t protect me, so I’m going to get a gun.’ ”
    Her sister, Ida Ross-Freeman, who runs the Stark County Urban Minority Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Outreach Project, blames inadequate resources for substance abuse education and mental health treatment.
    “Grief drives anger,” she said. “Kids don’t know how to articulate their grief.”
    Funding disparities, Ross-Freeman further charged, are resulting in bloodshed.
    “The agencies that are getting all the money are not addressing the needs of children of color,” she said. “Our children are dying in the streets.”
    “No one here is incorrect,” Sean Montgomery said. “The question is, how do we do it?”