Community events are focusing on seeking solutions, understanding
BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Recent shootings across the nation have intensified local efforts to address violence.
On July 17, a small group of residents attended an event at the Dickerson Community Center and James Huger Park, located in the 300 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
The event showed support for the Black Lives Matter movement as well as denounced violence, injustice and police brutality both nationally and locally.
“I have love for my people. I don’t hate anybody, but I have love for my people first,” responded Sean Hamilton, who is a Daytona Beach resident and father of four sons. Both of his parents – now deceased – were police officers.
Hamilton organized the event with the help of Facebook and was motivated by a Black Lives Matter event that he attended in Washington D.C. the previous week.
“I was moved by the unity and the love. We are behind in Daytona. I am worried about Black-on-Black crime and police brutality. Fortunately, here in Daytona we haven’t had an incident of a cop killing an innocent Black person, but if they do we should hold them accountable. We also shouldn’t have cops being killed,” Hamilton commented.
Those who participated were glad to show their support.
“We must start somewhere. We must support our community. We need to stick up for each other.
We need to protect our citizens and ourselves. We are a community. We are all friends and all have relatives in this community. We must stop this unnecessary violence. We must make sure that Black Lives Matter and that they matter to us as a people,” stated Angela Brown.
Brown also helped spread the word through Facebook.
The July 17 event included a gathering in the park where people spoke about current events.
It concluded with a march to a convenience store called the Friend’s Mart at 518 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., where a shooting had taken place the night before.
Shooting at store
According to police reports, Miami resident Bobby Willis, 32, was shot and killed. The suspect is Ricky Kelly, 31, of Daytona Beach.
Reports indicate that Willis was shot after the men got into an argument inside the store, which continued outside. They allegedly fired at each other and Kelly fled the scene.
Willis died on the scene, while Kelly went to a local hospital where staffers there called authorities, according to the report.
Kelly is being charged with pre-mediated first-degree murder and first-degree possession of a weapon and ammunition by a convicted felon.
Dialogue at church
Also on July 17, an anti-violence and police dialogue event took place at Hope Fellowship Church, 869 Derbyshire Road.
“A small group of officers and myself took questions from citizens in regards to racial profiling, what you should do during a traffic stop, rogue officers, body cameras, transparency, leadership, All Lives Matter and Black Lives Matter. The sanctity of human life should be the top priority,” said Daytona Beach Police Chief Mike Chitwood.
Chitwood, who is running for Volusia County Sheriff, admits that there are rogue police officers in this country and it’s hard to get rid of them.
“There are union rules and contracts. Police officers have a bill of rights which must be respected during an investigation. Also when rogue officers are disciplined, local police unions often fight it,” he explained.
“This costs cities money so they often try finding a happy medium. When these officers are fired, they often sue the city. Then you go before an arbitrator who doesn’t live in the city and may only know the case in front of him. Overwhelmingly nationwide, these arbitrators often put bad cops back on the streets,” Chitwood continued.
‘We’re not perfect’
The Daytona Beach Police Department is taking measures to ensure fair practices.
Chitwood told the Daytona Times, “We try to put a high premium on the fact that we are part of the community. We try to be cognizant on everything that is going on. We have several trainings. We try to give the bad guy every opportunity to go to jail safely.
“We’re the first police department in Florida to give all officers body cameras. We’re not perfect. It only takes one mistake to trigger a community. Ninety-nine percent of officers are good cops, but there is that 1 percent of idiots who shouldn’t be cops. If they screw up here, they will be fired. Just know that the system could always put them back to work,’’ he added.
Other community events are scheduled for the near future.
An anti-violence block party will be held on Saturday, July 30, on Verdell Street.
The event will be in remembrance of Rayshad Mitchell, whose birthday was July 21. Mitchell was found dead on the same street near the family‘s home from a gunshot wound back in 2012.
The family is throwing the event and the Daytona Beach police will be on hand.
Mitchell’s murder remains unsolved and there is a $25,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case.