Local groups seek to curb teenage violence

(WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — With the recent arrest of a 15-year-old boy for a triple homicide near The Fashion Mall at Keystone, law enforcement and local youth groups are banding together and calling for the public’s help to curb youth violence.

In a press conference Tuesday, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Chief Bryan Roach and several community leaders asked the public to act.

“I strongly believe that we must do better,” said Malachi Walker, from Young Men Inc.

“Crime is no respecter of neighborhoods, nor respecter of age,” said Reverend Clarence Moore from Indianapolis Ten Point Coalition.

Olgen Williams, from Peace in the Streets, specifically asked parents and guardians to check the rooms of their teenagers for weapons and have open conversations about violence and safety.

“Get to the youth early, start talking to them,” he said.

IMPD Chief Bryan Roach specifically asked the public to support area youth groups to help curb teenage violence.

“We’re pretty good at impacting the enforcement part of it, not the prevention and education,” said Chief Roach. “That’s why we need the public.”

Preventing youth violence isn’t an easy task, but WISH-TV did find one group with an expert informant.

“It was one of the worst times for me my husband and mine’s life I would say,” began Mavis Washington.

One phone call told this Indianapolis mother that her employed, college student son was arrested for armed robbery.

“We said, okay, must be racial profiling. There’s no way he would do anything like that, so they’ve got the wrong guy. So I wasn’t worried about it,” Washington said.

But it was true.

“Almost basically caught in the act. There was a chase,” said Washington.

Armand “Mando” Fuller was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison. However, from his jail cell, he created a youth program called “Why Aren’t You Smiling,” after discovering he had bipolar disorder and revealing to his parents that he struggled with depression and had gotten mixed in with the wrong crowd.

“[Mando] said ‘I don’t want another kid to feel like I felt,'” said Washington, quoting her son.

Mando’s method: Get them active, feed them well, let them talk and provide service opportunities at least once a week.

“Mando said when he volunteered, he always felt best,” said Washington.

Jala Peters is 15 years old and has been with W.A.Y.S. since day one, just about one year ago. Her favorite aspects of the youth group are also the service projects.

“Babysitting the foster kids, I like that. I like that a lot,” she said.

She says she’s seen a change in her peers since joining W.A.Y.S., along with a change in herself.

“We talk and we laugh and we have fun, and for a few hours we stop thinking about depression and anger,” Peters said. “And we’re happy for those few hours and content.”

Through yoga, dance, boxing and lots of anything-goes talk sessions Mando’s program is making a difference. And he follows up with a message every week all from his prison cell.

“‘Contemplate how you can also sacrifice,'” said Washington, reading aloud from one of Mando’s letters, “and ensure generations have the same opportunity or better than you were given. –Armand.'”

For more information on Why Aren’t You Smiling, click here or call 317-409-9114.

For those interested in learning more about other area youth groups, please contact organizers at the numbers below.

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