East Texans promise to actively stand up against gang violence

East Texans promise to actively stand up against gang violence

TYLER (KYTX) - The shooting death of 20-year-old Tyler mom Briana Young has escalated a conversation in East Texas about gang violence.

Some local community members are calling this rock bottom, and calling for action, and for change.

People across the region are upset that it's taken the loss of an innocent life to conjure up this active movement towards change. Now, they're setting that anger aside and reaching for positivity, with one question in mind: how do we stop the violence?

"There are big time gangs right here in the city of Tyler and I learned that at a young age," says Brandon Haggerty. He joined a local gang when he was 12 years old.

"One day I saw for myself that I was going to be in trouble behind a crime that I didn't even commit," he says.

It was then he realized he needed to get out.

"There's no success," Haggerty says. "There's no retirement from being a gang member or a drug dealer. There's only two places to be at: jail or dead."

So he left the gang, turned to the church, and became a minister.

"I have a wife and a son and I have to be an example to my child and show him a better way of a life," he says.

People like Haggerty give local reverend Jerome Milton, hope in a time of sorrow, a time when innocent people are losing their lives.

"It says that we're out of control," Milton says. "It says that enough should now be enough. That it's a black problem, a white problem, a green problem, a purple problem, it is a city and a county problem."

Right now, Reverend Milton is planning a community wide anti-violence summit to take place in a few weeks.

"The agenda is very clear. It's about solutions. It's not about whose fault it is. Coulda, shoulda, woulda is now over. We have to come to the point, what can we do?" Milton says.

He says the solution lies in our littlest community members.

"Starting with these young girls and boys at 3 or 4 years old."

He says the key is making sure those children don't ever join the gangs.

"Once you stop doing things that are positive and you have a lot of leisure time on your hands, that's when you start getting in trouble," Haggerty says.

He says the community needs to work to keep kids active and encouraged.

"I've been through it and if I can come out of it, anyone can. You just have to want better for yourself," he says.

Brandon says when he joined a gang at 12 years old, there were plenty of kids already in the gang that were younger than he was. So like Reverend Milton, he says, the younger we start, the better.

Milton hopes the summit will be a success and he'll be joined by city, county, even state leaders, community leaders, law enforcement and anyone out there who wants to be a part of a movement for peace. 


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