As gun violence plagues Hampton Roads, community restores hope & remembers lives lost too soon

Posted at 11:48 PM, Nov 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-13 06:07:04-05

NORFOLK, Va. – Many families who've lost loved ones to gun violence came together at a Norfolk football field Friday night to support one another and begin to heal.

Kristopher Edmonds, 15, Antonio Atkins, 25, and Purnell Taylor, 29, are just some of the people taken too soon by gunfire.

“This gun violence has taken a toll on all of us,” said Janis Toran Taylor of Norfolk.

November 12, 2004 is a day forever tainted for Taylor. Her only son Purnell was shot and killed in cold blood in Norfolk 17 years ago.

The agony and pain are still raw.

I’ve always been proud of him,” Taylor said. “He was a good boy. He was a good man. He had a heart of gold and he loved to play basketball, and he was everyone’s friend.”

Taylor visited her son Friday on the anniversary of his death.

“I went out to his gravesite this morning and placed some more flowers there. I talked with him,” she said. “He should be right here with me, but he’s not. I feel his spirit, but it’s not what I want.”

Friday’s ceremony was called 'Gone but not Forgotten.' Several families from Norfolk and Portsmouth pleaded for an end to the gun violence.

The vigil comes on the heels of two heart-wrenching shootings just last week.

In Norfolk’s Young Terrace community, five women were shot. Three of the five women, Sarah Costine, Nicole Lovewine and her partner Detra Brown, were killed.

In the small North Carolina town of Ahoskie, six people were shot in a bar. Jairen Lyles, 22, died from his wounds.

But Friday was a chance to lean on one another as they move forward and find ways to end the senseless shootings.

Taylor said it takes the entire community.

“Every day, every day, there’s a child or a woman, shot down for what?” she said. “The gun violence has to stop. The top has to come down and stop this.”

Taylor said she wants to see tougher gun laws. She now has a podcast called, “Surviving Gun Violence: The Impact, The Agony, The Aftermath,” where she talks about the grief of losing her son while offering hope and support to others going through the same thing.

So far in 2021, 55 people have been shot and killed in Norfolk. That's the highest number the city has seen over the last eight years.

In 2020, there were a total of 44 deaths, according to Norfolk Police.

For comparison, in all of 2018, there were 23 shooting deaths, which means the count has more than doubled over the last three years.