EVERGREEN, Ala. (WKRG) — After two people were shot to death late Tuesday evening, the mayor is heartbroken to see another act of gun violence in his city.
The murders happened at the Highland Green apartments. Raenajai Smith, 23, was pronounced dead on scene. The other victim, James Matthews Jr, 22, was taken to the hospital, but was pronounced dead on arrival.
Evergreen Mayor Stanley Stallworth says the double homicide was heartbreaking for him to hear. He says concerned about the amount of gun violence that he’s seen recently in the city.
“This is a very dark time for us,” said Stallworth. “We’re losing our young people to violence and gun violence and other violence.”
The story is not only heartbreaking for the mayor, but for people in the Evergreen community. Evergreen residents like Freemon Longmire says this story hit a bit close to home.
“I could have been standing there because I have family that lives there so I mean, anybody innocent could have been involved,” said Longmire. “That’s what we need to understand.”
To help combat the violence in Evergreen, both Mayor Stallworth and Longmire are working to find solution to deter young people from picking up guns.
“We really do have to find strategies that will give young people more opportunities to have viable jobs in neighborhoods,” explained Stallworth. “To not resort to drugs, to look for viable careers that will help them foster a better life for themselves and their children.”
“Everyone has the opportunity to change,” said Longmire. “No matter what type of life you’re living, a situation in which you’re dealing with, there’s always an opportunity to change. Dealing with the gun violence down here, it’s just all about people changing.”
To help implement change, Longmire says he’s working to get people in Evergreen to come together and hold community meetings to speak with citizens on ways to help people better manage their conflict.
He says the amount of gun violence has motivated him to purchase properties on West Front Street which he is going to turn into a community center for people in Evergreen to enjoy.
“People don’t have to just be sitting at home when something decides to happen,” he said. “They can be somewhere doing activities or on a better job.”
“We are challenged with figuring out ways to help our young people understand that violence is not the way and that we’ve got to do a better job in helping them realize that there’s really more to life than gangbanging,” said Mayor Stallworth.
So far, no arrests have been made in the double homicides.