‘It’s getting worse:’ Lexington organization aiming to find solutions to gun violence

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56/WKYT) – Lexington police are investigating the city’s 29th homicide this year.

Jayontai McCann died after he was shot Tuesday morning at an apartment complex on Liberty Road. So far, no one is in custody.

Tuesday night, activists and pastors with the group “BUILD” pushed for city leaders to get involved to end the gun violence in Lexington. The group wants the city to adopt a program that they said has been effective in other cities to combat gun violence.

“I don’t know all the victims, but there’s one thing we do share, and that’s the pain,” said Cheryl Birch.

Birch knows all too well what it’s like to lose a loved one to gun violence. In 2009, her son Jermaine was killed.

“Every single time I hear of another homicide, I get that same feeling. It’s like I relive that day all over again,” Birch said.

It’s a feeling she’s felt 29 times this year, the most recent just hours before dozens gathered in downtown Lexington to call for action.

“When one person is killed or is injured, that affects the whole city. It’s dear to me for one because God has called on us to be our brother’s keeper,” BUILD member Sherry Warsh said.

Warsh said they have been working for several years to make a change and get city officials on board. In 2018, then-Mayor Jim Gray worked with the group and the National Network for Safe Community on Group Violence Intervention study. BUILD is critical of Mayor Gorton and other city leaders for not following the recommendations of that study.

“I’m hoping the city sees that what they are doing and the programs, that the mayor says they are doing great things, there is no proven track record behind it. The violence keeps going on. As a matter of fact, it’s getting worse,” Warsh said.

They’re calling for action to save lives from violent circumstances.

“I lost my son,” Birch said. “I’m here to try to save someone else’s.”

In a statement Tuesday night, Mayor Gorton said:

“We all mourn this loss of life. We mourn each individual. That is why we have worked so hard on programs that are specific to Lexington’s needs– One Lexington, Safety Net, hospital-based violence intervention, mediation, and community partnerships. In addition, we implemented five of six recommendations from BUILD. We have made progress in addressing what is really a national challenge, and we are committed to keep working.”

BUILD will hold a virtual town hall event on Oct. 21 about the National Network for Safe Community and their solutions to end violence. For information on how to attend, you can email buildlex@gmail.com.

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