Families share stories, shoes of loved ones lost to gun violence in downtown Lexington

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Families who lost loved ones to gun violence took to downtown Lexington today in honor of the National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims.

Cathy Franco’s story is one that has been told far too often in Lexington lately.

“Some girl picked him up…and he had fell asleep on her couch and someone came in the house and shot Lito three times,” Franco said.

Her son, Isreal “Lito” Cruz, became a victim of gun violence in August 2020. Thirteen months and several surgeries later, Lito continues to improve with the help of extensive therapy. His case remains unsolved.

“Justice for him is all that we would want,” said Franco. “That’s why we come to these rallies.”

Lito’s family was one of many on hand to have the public “walk a mile in their shoes” by sharing stories, and shoes, of lost loved ones.

“We don’t want this to happen to anyone else but we see it happening every weekend,” said Jackie Shannon in a speech at the old courthouse in downtown Lexington.

Shannon’s grandson Tyler was just 18 when he was murdered in July of 2017.

“This is not a sisterhood or membership that you want to have and that you want anyone else to have,” Shannon said.

“When we lose one member of our community, it’s always one too many,” said Ricardo Franklin, a community outreach coordinator with the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office.

Franklin lost his brother, Antonio, when he was just 15. He says every pair of shoes on display today had its own special meaning.

“My brother’s shoes signify to me just going out and playing basketball in the driveway,” Franklin said.

Franklin said this is something that can happen to anyone, so the rise in violence should concern everyone in the city.

“I think we all share an interest in Lexington and when it happens in our community, it should be alarming,” Franklin said. “We should want to put it an end to it.”

Lito’s family say he will never be the same, but he is lucky to still be alive. They hope along with Franklin and Shannon that these events will spread awareness and help to solve cases and stop shootings.

“I just want kids to know this is not a game out here,” said Marco Wray, Lito’s brother. “These guns aren’t toys, bullets don’t have names.”

GoFundMe has been established to support Lito and his medical costs.

A peace walk is also planned for October 10 at Duncan Park. The start of the Peace Walk has not been announced.

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