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Separate Raleigh shootings drawing national attention, local outrage

Advocates urged city leaders and citizens to do more to combat violent crimes, including the recent shooting death of community activist Dr. Yvonne Nelson.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tuesday, Memphis community advocates expressed their pain and urged others to do more.

They reacted to connected overnight shootings in Raleigh that ended near Methodist North Hospital and resulted in the charges of three teenagers.

That followed another deadly shooting in Raleigh this past weekend, which claimed the life of community activist Dr. Yvonne Nelson. The shootings are drawing national attention and local outrage 

"I'm a native Memphian, 68 years of my life, I've never seen anything like this," Al Lewis said.

For the community advocate and Raleigh resident, the news Tuesday morning hit him like a gut punch.

"I don't like having this concern, this isn't Memphis anymore, this is somewhere else," Lewis added.

A little after midnight, two separate shootings injured six people and ended near Methodist North hospital, around the corner from Lewis' home.

It followed the Saturday night shooting death of activist Dr. Yvonne Nelson near Lewis' Raleigh barber shop.

"Dr. Yvonne Nelson was an advocate for love and change and for her to be murdered, brutally shot, multiple times just hurt to my core," Lewis said.

Memphis police charged three teenagers in connection to the overnight shootings, another reason Lewis feels so hopeless these days.

"Yes, there are some initiatives to try and get some penetration in it but you are talking about long term, short term, nothing short of curfew, and the National Guard roaming the streets can suppress what's going on," Lewis said.

"It's unacceptable. We should all be angry, we should all be in a state of outrage," Pastor Kevin Brooks said Tuesday afternoon, in a news conference with other Memphis clergy. He reflected on Dr. Nelson's life and demanded city leaders and citizens to step up.

"The violence in this city is coming too close to everyone," Pastor Brooks said. "The perpetrators of these crimes, we must start to facilitate a sense of code of caring, remove this whole idea of 'stop snitching' because it's impacting all of us."

That group of clergy also expressed their desire to meet with city leaders, including Memphis police, in the coming days. 

They want to get a better idea of specific policies being done to combat this violent crime, especially for teenagers charged with serious offenses. 

Ursula Madden, Chief Communications Officer for Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland's Office, sent this statement: 

“We welcome the new efforts of additional citizens in our collective efforts to reduce crime. At city government, we began in 2016 to rebuild the police department, provide more of our youth with productive activities when they are out of school, strengthen criminal penalties for violent offenders, providing second chances for those with criminal records to reduce recidivism, and increasing economic opportunities for all Memphians. For more details, please see https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/TNMEMPHIS/bulletins/324bd3a.

From 2017 through the beginning of 2020, we were successful with all these goals, and crime was decreasing. When the pandemic hit, like most every city in the country, children limited their engagement with productive activities, our police force decreased, and crime increased. 

For six years, we have asked citizens to help the community with mentoring through the Grizzlies Foundation and with tutoring children with Arise2Read and Team Read. In addition, we ask citizens to engage with other entities involved in crime reduction efforts, such as Shelby County government, which has 100% authority over juvenile justice, which fails to punish or intervene with most juvenile offenders, and state government, which has weak state laws, which allow the proliferation of guns in our community while failing to adequately punish the wrongful use of those guns, except for the recently passed Truth in Sentencing Law.”

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