Councilman William “Cruz” Shaw (D2) held a press conference Thursday with other city officials to discuss ways of reducing violent crime on the Eastside following the death of 4-year-old De-Earlvion Whitley, who was killed inside his home Thursday after a drive-by shooting.
Speakers addressed a small group of local church and community members at the Corner Gate Christian Church. Shaw’s remarks marked his first official press conference as councilman for the district. He said he hoped the topic would be something more positive, like jobs for youth.
“It feels terrible,” Shaw said, following remarks and prayers. “We have lost yet another citizen and child to senseless gun violence. Enough is enough.”
The gunmen involved in the shooting pulled up in front of the boy’s home on Hub Avenue around midnight Wednesday and opened fire while he was sleeping in the front room of his home, according to the San Antonio Express-News. His mother Cyntwanisha Whitley, 29, was shot twice in the left leg and is recovering in the hospital. The slain boy was pronounced dead at 12:03 a.m. on Thursday.
San Antonio Police Chief William McManus told reporters the shooting could have been a gang-related retaliation for a shooting that occurred earlier that day that had left two injured. Police have yet to release details on the suspects and said no witnesses have come forward with more information on the shooting. The “intended victim” of the shooting was not harmed.
“This senseless gun violence must stop, and it must stop now,” said Shaw, who also chairs the City’s Public Safety Committee. “This is a heartbreaking incident, and it comes at a critical time where our district, District 2, and our city, the city of San Antonio, has made public safety our main focus and our priority.”
Shaw told reporters that solutions for issues like gang and gun violence can come to the surface through community discourse and interaction. One approach is empowering local community leaders to guide their own communities about the neighborhood’s problems.
“Give more community ownership,” Shaw said. “Let’s let our communities take control over what’s going on in the neighborhoods. Allow the community to tell us what we need to do to help the community.”
Local pastor Royce Sullivan, who gave the final remarks at the event, said the community must work together to address hard issues like gun violence.
“What [Shaw] does have is the influence to get a room available for me to bring the community together and talk to them and teach them,” Sullivan said. “But it’s not his job to create the fixing. We have to fix it.”
Sullivan described the impact that rising violence has started to have around his community and neighborhood.
“It’s getting scary,” Sullivan said. “Whenever you get to the place where people are saying, ‘I want to leave,’ that’s when things get really scary.”
Mayor Ron Nirenberg emphasized the importance of reporting suspicious activity to the San Antonio Police Department.
“When there is senseless gun violence that takes the life of a child, it makes it all the more tragic for our city,” Nirenberg said. “We need you to be working with [SAPD], which is going to leverage every resource it has to make sure we get to an end of this senseless violence.”
McManus did not mince words, expressing frustration that “senseless” and “stupid” violence has become commonplace in the community.
He informed the congregation that around 2,000 arrests have taken place recently, as a result of a recently formed violence task force at the police department. Still, McManus also lamented the continued violence caused by generational gang activity.
“The random violence, no matter how hard we try, no matter how hard we staff up, no matter how much we saturate an area, it doesn’t have an impact,” McManus said. “Because if someone wants to hit somebody they’re going to wait for their time and their opportunity to do it.”
Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood delivered strong statements on battling the symptoms of violence.
“I think its time that we as a community start engaging in some hate speech,” LaHood said. “I hate murderers.”
He added that the person responsible for the shooting would face capital murder charges when apprehended. But remedying a “symptom,” he said as he referred to the legal process, would do little to significantly curb gang violence.
“Hate murder, hate violence, but then do something about it,” LaHood said. “With all due respect to my colleagues and my friends behind me, this isn’t about gun violence. There’s a world view and a culture in these groups that has not changed. Until we get into the nucleus of the culture in these groups, we’re never going to change.”
Going forward, at least one community member believes in the new City Council’s potential to leave an impact on violence in San Antonio.
“I believe in the new City Council simply because it’s new,” Sullivan said. “A fresh wind sometimes can change some things.”