Community members seek solutions to stop youth violence in Lakeland

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) — As Lakeland Police Officer Jamie Smith rounded a corner at the Carrington Place Apartments Wednesday afternoon, his body camera captured the moment police said that … 13 year old suspect shot him in the left foot.

“Because he shot a cop, he’s lucky his life is alive,” said Keith Jackson.

After the Lakeland drive-by shooting 11 people injured In January, Keith Jackson, 46, organized a March “Stop the Violence” rally.

“The community takes no responsibility for our own children,” he said.

But Jackson is working to change that by finding solutions to keep young people away from a life of crime.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said the 13-year-old gunman had been dating two juvenile gang members and he was on probation for another crime earlier in the year.

“When you join a gang, you have two choices: death, jail,” Jackson said, “or else you can lose a family member.”

Terry Conney, president of the NAACP’s Lakeland division, said interventions must begin before some of the boys reach middle school.

“We have to go back and really catch these kids in early elementary school or at least fifth grade and show them a different path, a different path,” Conney said.

That alternative path, Conney said, could be through exercise, music, or finding a mentor in the community.

“If someone needs me, we need to get together and figure out how to stop this,” Jackson said.

Jackson told News Channel 8 that parents and family members need to be more proactive in preventing guns from getting into the hands of children.

“You’re the ones who know these guns are in your homes,” Jackson said, “and if you don’t know, that’s because you’re not doing your due diligence and you’re checking under the bed.” They don’t check in the drawers. You don’t look in the closet. You don’t go through the shoeboxes and I know these things because this is where I used to keep my gun.”

Jackson said he plans to hold a “stop the violence” rally in the Tampa area and another in Lakeland.

Once released from Tampa General Hospital, the 13-year-old gunman will be sentenced to the Polk County Jail for multiple felonies, including attempted first-degree murder.

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