Tevlin: Here's hoping 2013 is when the shootings finally stop

  • Article by: JON TEVLIN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 1, 2013 - 9:17 PM
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From left, V.J. Smith of MAD DADS, Marsha Mayes and K.G. Wilson of Hope Ministries met last March at an Ending Violent Cycles event in the aftermath of the shooting death of Mayes’ 3-year-old son, Terrell.

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

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One year ago I wrote about the slaying of 3-year-old Terrell Mayes and the heartbreak it caused his family and the community. Terrell was shot inside his house as he ran for cover after hearing gunshots in a nearby alley.

We like to see New Year's Day as a time of change and renewal, and all of us seek story lines that confirm our hope for the future.

It doesn't always work out that way.

On New Year's Eve 2011, politicians and preachers called for witnesses of Terrell's shooting to step forward, and they vowed to try to keep it from happening again.

Well, a memorial for Terrell was held Saturday, with pretty much the same message. There are still no suspects in his murder. No one has stepped forward with information.

One of those who demanded change was K.G. Wilson, founder of Hope Ministries. Last New Year's Eve, Wilson was dressed in camouflage as he spoke.

"They need to hear us down the block and on the corner," he bellowed. "It was little Terrell that day, but them bullets are coming to a neighborhood near you. Because if we don't get this chump who did this off the streets, your baby could be next."

Then, nothing happened.

That's not quite accurate. Six months later, 5-year-old Nizzel George was killed by a bullet inside his house. In the past year, there have been at least four more slayings in the Hawthorne neighborhood alone, 41 in the city.

Wilson, a 6-foot-5 former Chicago gang banger, has been there for all of them, demanding that young men come forward, demanding that they stop their violent ways, trying to believe in the ideals his ministry was named for: hope.

I called him last week to ask if anything had changed, if he had seen anything that gives him hope about the case. There was a pause.

"Nope, I haven't," he said.

Wilson has kept in touch with the boy's mother, Marsha Mayes and been a spiritual adviser and mentor to her sons. He's written letters to the unknown person who fired the shot that killed Terrell, and he's reached out to young men in the neighborhood, trying to get them to reveal the shooter.

"There's been some blame on the police for not solving this," said Wilson, "but that's bull crap. They've tried hard to do their job. The biggest tool is community involvement. The neighbors have to say, 'I know who did this.' If they don't, nothing is going to change."

At one point, Wilson became so discouraged, he actually gave up.

"I cried my eyes out," he said. "I retired. People called me to come to vigils and behind closed doors I said, 'I'm done. I can't do this anymore. We've seen no changes.'"

But the killings continued, and so did the vigils. Wilson found himself drawn to them, almost despite himself.

"Because of my heart, I had to get back involved," said Wilson. "I'm back full-time, 365 days a year."

A few days ago, he saw news that his hometown of Chicago had witnessed its 500th homicide of 2012. "If we don't get on top of this, this will be us," Wilson said. "We will see the numbers multiply in front of us.

"I don't know what it is, but I feel I can save somebody's life, still," said Wilson. "I feel like someday, somebody is going to listen to me and stop the killing."

jtevlin@startribune.com • 612-673-1702

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