ROANOKE, Va. – Two people were shot and killed in Roanoke just three days after an event in the city to help prevent gun violence.
"There was a sense of hope, and then we turn around within days and have this happen," said Rev. Kevin McNeil, a member of the Roanoke Gun Violence Task Force who organized the event, Roanoke Remembers. "It's a reminder of how far we have to come."
Roanoke Police say Kyyona Casey, 21, and Justin Jennings, 31, both died after being shot near Orange Avenue and 11th Street NW Wednesday evening. Deontray Clemens, 30, is hospitalized from the same shooting.
"I am not one who looks at moments like this and thinks, 'Maybe we shouldn't do this,'" McNeil said. "This, to me, is all the more reason why we should be doing this work."
According to data from the Roanoke Police Department, six homicides have happened in the city so far this year.
The data shows there have been 259 gun-related incidents in Roanoke in 2019, compared to 269 at this point last year. Eighty-one of them were violent incidents, including homicides, aggravated assaults and robberies. The number of homicides is keeping the same pace, but the number of aggravated assaults with a gun has doubled from 26 to 52 this year.
"This is not going to be a quick turnaround," McNeil said. "This is not going to be something where we snap our fingers, spout a few scriptures, and everyone is going to be OK."
The Gun Violence Task Force is looking over suggestions from this weekend's event, and they found many attendees struggled with the emotional aftermath of a shooting. McNeil said the task force may consider sending emotional trauma specialists to accompany police to violent crime scenes.
"Police are meant to triage and deal with the immediate threat of the situation, not necessarily all of the fallout," McNeil said. "When people started to gather around the boards of shooting victims at Roanoke Remembers and looked at the pictures, you started to see the emotion on people's faces. This is going to take some work."