After violent year in Indy, gang members want out

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — They may not be the members most people would expect to see in a church. But after being out until 2 a.m., two gang members sat down in an Indianapolis church Tuesday afternoon to talk to 24-Hour News 8.

It has been a brutal year on the streets of Indianapolis. It’s taken 52 lives to be lost this year for these gang members — now 19 and 21 years old — to sit in the pews. For purposes of this story, they will be referred to as Marie and John. Their names are being withheld for their safety.

“A little nervous,” said the female. “Cause I don’t know where to start.”

“When I was little, [gang members] were celebrities to me.”— Indianapolis gang member

The conversation started at the beginning — when Marie and John used to watch older gang members on the streets.

“When I was little, they were celebrities to me,” John said. “So I just wanted to, I guess, live that lifestyle because that’s all I had seen. That’s all I knew since I was little. Cars, money, jewelry, clothes, all of that. So it excited me.”

So when each was 13 years old, they joined. Immediately they were given guns and their life as gang members began. When asked what could have helped them choose a different, more positive direction at that age, their answer was simple.

“Our parents,” said John. “I needed guidance from my parents in order to lead me in the right direction instead of going out here on the streets.”

“I needed guidance from my parents in order to lead me in the right direction instead of going out here on the streets.”— Indianapolis gang member

As the weight of John’s words filled the sanctuary, he continued, remembering his first crime and the so many lives lost.

“Once I start finding out that I’m losing everybody that I’m close to, wake up and run every day, it made me bump my head, you know, try to realize this ain’t for me,” said John.

With fear that they may be the city’s next homicide victims, John and Marie are now trading the false allure of money for the reality of a diploma. They’re willing to give up the gang life if they can get help getting a GED. Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard has personally told them he’s going to help gang members who want to get out.

Just the thought has them both dreaming of their futures maybe for the first time ever.

“In a house with a family, including a husband and just a wonderful life,” said Marie.

“Nice job, wife, big house, cars, family, just living the good life,” said John.

It’s a dream life John knows would have to be without gangs.

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