The shot fired by a Florida neighborhood watch captain that killed an unarmed black teenager has echoed around the nation, prompting outrage and spotlighting gun laws. On Sunday in Minneapolis, it inspired calls for stricter gun controls and freshened the pain of Minnesotans who have lost sons and brothers to gunfire.
The survivors of about 10 gunshot victims were among about 70 people who gathered at north Minneapolis' Ascension Church for an anti-violence gathering, one of several held this weekend around the country. They included the brother of Jason Youngmark, who was fatally shot March 17 near 26th and Emerson Avenues N., just a few blocks from the church at 1704 Dupont Av. N.
Also there, sitting quietly, was 12-year-old Ezra Mayes. His 3-year-old brother, Terrell Mayes Jr., was fatally injured Dec. 26 by a stray bullet that slammed into their home on Colfax Avenue N. after they heard gunshots outside at dinnertime and went for cover, Terrell carrying his plate of spaghetti.
Ezra said it was good so many people were getting together to talk about stopping the shooting. He looked sad and weary beyond his years as he said that he just wants people to put down the guns.
"Just like people are rallying for Trayvon [Martin, the teen shot in Florida], we need to rally people in Minneapolis," said K.G. Wilson, who wore camouflage clothing from head to toe as he spoke to the group. He stood near about 10 mothers and other loved ones of people slain in the area.
"We can't forget these families; these mothers are still grieving," said Wilson, who heads Hope Ministries and founded the Charez Jones Foundation, named after a 14-year-old Minneapolis girl killed by a stray bullet in 2007.
Still grieving, too, on Sunday was Mary Johnson of north Minneapolis, whose son, Laramuin Byrd, was shot to death in 1993 after an argument at a party.
V.J. Smith, president of the Minneapolis Chapter of Mad Dads, encouraged those gathered to commit to trying to end gun violence by nurturing community leaders, including among the young. And somehow, the flow of guns into the hands of young people in inner-city neighborhoods must be stopped, he said.
Not far from Ascension Church stands one of the striking billboards that's gone up in recent days in an attempt by Minneapolis Police, Clear Channel and Crime Stoppers to shake loose leads in the unsolved case. On the billboard is a photo of smiling Terrell and his mother, Marsha Mayes, who on Sunday spoke to the group.
"What parents need to do is bring kids to these meetings," she said, mentioning she'd brought Ezra to the gathering. "Us parents have to stand strong. If you don't, it's going to continue.
Joy Powell • 651-925-5038