(Memphis) “It’s like a bad dream that I am trying to wake up from,” says Janice Wallace.
June 29, 2013, a gun shot changed Wallace’s life forever.
On a North Memphis street, her 16-year-old son Quinton was shot to death.
He was an innocent teen caught in the middle of gang shoot-out. Bullets flew into a crowd.
“You got one like this here that can go out and pick up a gun and just shoot randomly after getting into it with someone. That’s sad,” says Wallace.
Sad, but all too real and all too common in Memphis.
What happened when Quinton Wallace’s 16-year-old shooter went to Juvenile Court was all the evidence his mom needed for what’s wrong with the system.
Prosecutors allowed the teen accused of killing Wallace to plead guilty and be placed in the custody of the Department of Children Services until he is 19, when he will walk free.
“I was more so upset, shock, numb, hurt, all that I went through when it first happened. It’s like I relived it all over again,” says Wallace.
Prosecutors say in cases like this, when juvenile gang-bangers are in combat, shooting at each other in the middle of neighborhood streets, it can be hard to get a conviction.
“So you have two groups of individuals shooting at each other and each group has no reason to cooperate with the state about who fired first and what happened out there. As in this case, a lot of times innocent victims are shot by stray bullets,” says Ray Lepone, Chief Prosecutor for the Multi-Agency Gang Unit.
“Knowing that you have 16-year-old who killed my 16-year-old and he is gonna be out in a short period of time for a life, it hurts,” says Wallace.
The pain spurred something else in this grieving mother, a call to action.
“I am going to try to do everything I can in my power as a mother to get stronger laws to make an example out of 16-year-olds like this because it’s like a slap on the wrist for him. You took my baby’s life,” says Wallace.
Wallace’s mission now is to prevent other children from dying senselessly.
“I am gonna go to Nashville and I am gonna push for stronger laws and I am gonna try to do everything I can to make justice fulfilled in the name of my son. It might not be no more jail time for him, but at least try to push for stricter laws,” says Wallace.
District Attorney Amy Wierich says laws have gotten tougher in Tennessee in the last 10 years and new initiatives like the recent “No Gang Zone” will help even more, by making it easier for police to arrest known gang members for something as small as gathering on street corners.
“You hope it sends the message we are just not gonna put up with it here. You are not going to be allowed to continue to intimidate and terrorize communities with your gang activity,” says Wierich.
“Hopefully something will be done to save another life in the future. Hopefully,” says Wallace.
Right now Janice Wallace is working out the details on when she can head to the state capitol and list her voice among so many others calling for stricter laws and an end to the violence in the streets.