PORTSMOUTH, Va. - Jakhia Howell, 12, and her 14-year-old sister Janiyah wore orange to honor their father Jamel Howell. They said the 34-year-old was shot and killed last August.
“We don’t want him to be forgotten or forget how he died” Jakhia Howell said. “We want to remember him as a funny, nice person. He didn’t hurt anybody.”
Friday, June 5 marks National Gun Violence Awareness Day. On this day, the Howells want others to hear their message.
“Want to stop gun violence, because it’s not cool or right for others,” said Jakhia Howell.
The Southside neighborhood in Portsmouth came together Friday night to raise awareness and discuss ways to put an end to gun violence.
“I’m tired of seeing our youth getting killed,” said one woman speaking to the large crowd.
David Blount, a community member said they want the children to know they are there to support them.
“If there are things going on in our communities we don’t approve of, then we need to step up, especially the men in our community, to make sure the children have a viable future in front on them.”
Barry R. Randall organized the event called, “I Deserve to Grow up Without Getting Shot.”
“At the end of the day we have to take responsibility, so these children can have a future,” Randall said.
Portsmouth Police Chief Angela Greene said last week on May 29, suspect Keith Elliott, 25, shot and injured five people, including a seven-year-old boy. Greene said it happened during a vigil at night.
According to Greene, she has stepped up patrol in the neighborhood to prevent any more kids from getting shot.
“We have to take care of the little ones to make sure we don’t ever have an incident like this again,” Greene said. “They should be able to come out here and gather together and play and not have to worry about being shot or being harmed.”
Jacobie Mitchell, 12, said he hears gun shots outside his window once a week.
His cousin Ty’Quei Mitchell, 12, said that’s not fair to any of them.
Our environment should be safer for the innocence out here,” Ty’Quei Mitchell said. “It shouldn’t be no gun violence out here. There should be a natural habitat for us instead of shooting.”
Jakhia Howell wants kids to know they’re not alone. She started a helpline “757 Kids Against Domestic Violence,” to let them know she’s there to listen.
“One of the kids talked to us about how they lost one of their family members,” said said. “We could talk to them about how we lost our dad, just talk to them and try to make them feel better.”
Meantime, Portsmouth Police said there is an arrest warrant out for Elliott. Anyone with information on the Portsmouth man’s whereabouts are asked to call the Crime Line at 1-888-LOCK-U-UP.