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Causes Of Woman’s Death, Home Invasion Victim’s Paralysis Came Long Before The Incidents
5/27/2015 1:00:23 PM

Staff Reports

As the local community reels from the police shooting of Walter Scott and continued acts of violence among young Black men, the murder of an innocent woman and the police shooting of a man who called for help as his home was being invaded again has brought focus on the need to reduce violence. At least temporarily.

The May 10 Mother’s Day murder of Kadena Brown-Vanderhorst whose car was mistaken for one involved in a running gun battle between two cars pierced the heart of the local community. Brown-Vanderhorst was leaving a family gathering about 1 a.m. when the car she was driving was mistaken for one involved in the gun battle. She was killed by one of four bullets fired into her car.

Three days earlier 26-year-old Brian Heyward’s frightened voice was heard by a 911 operator answering his call for police as two young men, a 16-year-old and a 20-year-old, broke into his Hollywood home. When police arrived a deputy who mistook Heyward for one of the perpetrators shot Heyward leaving him paralyzed.

Rev. Nelson Rivers, III of the National Action Network and Asst. Sheriff Mitch Lucas of the Charleston County Sheriff Department were asked their thoughts about recent incidents of violence in the Charleston area and how they might be reduced. Here are their responses.

Both men agreed that reducing violent crime is a complicated process - there are no quick fixes. But while the processes involved in reducing crime may be complicated, it can be accomplished if the community is willing to take some difficult steps.

Rivers, who is pastor of Charity Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston and who also is Vice President of Religious Affairs and External Relations for the National Action Network, said people first must realize there is no such thing as Black on Black crime. Crime is just crime, Rivers maintains. When that perception is embraced, the entire community should acknowledge its responsibility in reducing crime, he said.

That collective perception is key to developing strategies to impact crime, Rivers believes. A priority must be eliminating guns. It’s easier for a young person to get a gun than to get a drivers license, Rivers said. Much of what facilitates crime in our community is motivated by profit. The manufacture and sale of guns is a multibillion dollar industry in America, he said.

Though churches also have a role to play in offering alternatives to crime, but jobs creation also is important. Individuals who earn a liveable wage are less likely to engage in criminal activities, Rivers said. That means companies like Volvo and Boeing should be investing resources in under served communities.

‘We have to make the connection between justice and violence,” Rivers said. “In communities that suffer economic injustice you have higher crime. Where there is adequate housing, jobs and other things, crime is lower. It takes collective action - reducing crime means reducing unemployment, increasing the living wage and improving access to quality housing.”

Rivers said we also have to look at public education. Increasing the number of Black male high school graduates and reducing the number of dropouts will lead to reduced crime. It won’t happen tomorrow, but it can happen in five years, he challenges.

Lucas said the causes of Brown-Vanderhorst’s death are so far removed from her murder, most people can’t see them.

“There’s nothing that young woman could have done to prevent her death. She was killed for driving the wrong car,” Lucas said. “In this country, on various levels, we have accepted that some young men carry and use guns. I’m hard-pressed to believe that no one knew that the kid who killed Mrs. Brown-Vanderhorst had a gun. A sister, an aunt, a mother - somebody knew that young man had that gun, but didn’t say anything. I know an aunt doesn’t want to put her nephew in a position to be arrested. But is that worse then him taking someone’s life?”

Lucas says law enforcement isn’t the front line defense against criminal violence. “I don’t think we can arrest our way out of this problem. And it’s so much deeper than prayer vigils and town hall meetings. The people who go to those aren’t the ones who need to be there,” he said.

“It’s easy to say ‘stop the violence’, but that’s not as easy to do. As long as young Black men are killing other young Black men, we;ll have situations like Mrs. Brown-Vanderhorst. Innocent people sometimes will get caught in the middle.”

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