HAMPTON ROADS, Va. — An onslaught of recent gun violence is gripping communities throughout Hampton Roads.
The public often never sees the victims’ faces, hears their stories or gets to know the families they leave behind.
But people like Antonio Atkins won’t be forgotten by the ones who love them most.
“He was just a free-spirited person - very respectful, very known in the community. He was a people person,” said Antonio Atkins’ mother, Monica Atkins.
Antonio was a Western Branch High School graduate and a father of two young boys. At the age of 25, he was shot and killed in Portsmouth.
In December 2014, Antonio was driving along Effingham Street when a gunman fired at him. Monica Atkins says her son was shot in the head and died and that his girlfriend in the passenger's seat was also injured.
Antonio's older brother was in the back seat but made it out of the care alive, Monica says. The traumatic event adding to the grief the family already faces.
“I got a call. I’m home asleep and my daughter knocks on my room door and says, 'Mom, get up. Marcelo said he’s been trying to call you; said ‘Smugg’ is dead,'" said Monica.
The killer hasn’t been caught, and the family still has no idea why their loved one was targeted.
Monica channels her trauma into her nonprofit Stop the Violence 757. The organization provides resources to the community and support for gun violence victims' families trying to heal.
“You don’t want to be in my shoes. It’s not too late to help your child. Tell them what they’re doing is wrong. Not even that - communication is key,” said Monica.
Monica says everyone is in this together. From the Southside to the Peninsula, there’s hope for change if people come together.
“We just need to take our city back; we do. We’ve got to love on our kids; we’ve got to protect our kids; we have to sow more into our kids future,” she said.