MEMPHIS, Tenn. — One year ago today, two gunmen pulled up to a cookie store on Airways and opened fire. They killed beloved rapper Young Dolph.
As word spread, a team of people worked tirelessly to keep the peace to stop any kind of retaliation and more bloodshed from happening.
WREG is committed to a Gun Safe Memphis, and we take a closer look at that team and what they are continuing to do curb violence.
“This is one of the most proactive crime fighting tools that I’ve gained knowledge of,” Jimmie Johnson said.
He leads the Group Violence Intervention Program, which launched last year.
Essentially, it’s a collaboration between police, social service providers and other community groups. Together they work to build trust in the neighborhoods, so they can figure out the dynamic of gangs, drugs and the conflicts occurring.
He said when a shooting happens, they assess, try to intervene and talk a person down before they try to retaliate.
That’s what they did November 7, when a 911 call came in after 10 p.m. It happened inside a convenience store in Oakhaven. The callous act captured on surveillance released by Memphis police.
A man pulled a gun from his waistband, aimed it at a guy just feet away and fired multiple times. Kylan Dixon was pronounced dead.
“The whole story. Situation. It’s just crazy,” Dixon’s cousin Shanya Moore said. “It bothered me some kind of way. I’m just loss for words.”
She was one of many heartbroken and unable to grasp the senseless violence.
Days later, loved ones gathered outside the store for a candlelight vigil. The pain and suffering was almost paralyzing.
Dixon is the 208th person killed in Memphis this year. The homicide total is creeping towards last year’s record breaking number.
But, in terms of the overall violent crime rate, it is going down some, Memphis Shelby Crime Commission President Bill Gibbons said. He said there’s still a long way to go.
He said the decrease is due to new tools the city implemented like the Group Violence Intervention Program.
“Retaliatory violence is a very, very, very sensitive situation in this city,” Delvin Lane said.
Lane started the 901 BLOC Squad, which is a group working to reduce gun violence in Memphis. It’s also one of the community groups part of the program.
“People are upset, because their situations haven’t changed. They don’t know how to deal with conflict. You stepped on my foot, and I have a gun, so I shot you. Or you shot my brother two years ago. Now you are out of jail, so I’m going to get you. The reasoning isn’t there,” Lane said.
Lane said his team is assigned to quadrants in the city. They spend time in the neighborhoods and will even respond to a shooting to talk sense.
“I’ll ask a lot of guys in the penitentiary. They will say if I had two seconds to think about what I did before I did it, I wouldn’t be sitting in the penitentiary for life. So we try to be that two seconds. Be that reason. That voice of peace. That voice of calm,” Lane explained.
Lane told us if you took his team away and others in the city like them, “our shootings would be triple. Our homicides would be probably be triple.”
There’s also another part to the program. After they’ve identified and calmed down the person who was talking about retaliating, they will make an assessment and offer that person support and services.
“Okay, you dropped out of school in the 9th grade and you don’t have a GED, let’s figure that out. You are on probation or parole and you have to pay $50 a month, but you don’t have a job. Let’s figure that out,” Lane said.
Lane said people have been receptive, because his team used to be on the streets.
“We used to be on the corner. We used to be the ones shooting. At some point, our lives changed. We want to give them the same opportunities to change their lives too,” he said.
The Group Violence Intervention Program explained that an officer will always make contact with the at-risk individual. They also have groups working in the schools and in some hospitals including Le Bonheur.
Those with the Group Violence Intervention Program say they’ve reached out to about 80 people, and more than a fourth accepted services. Lane said 901 BLOC Squad is working with dozens more.
“We started with five members 10 years ago. Now we are up to 50 members thanks to the mayor,” Lane said.
We asked what would happen if you doubled that number.
“We could saturate more neighborhoods, go to more events, and stop more violence,” he said confidently.