Community seeking answers, end to violence after New Year’s Eve shooting leaves 4 dead
GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - It’s supposed to be a time of excitement for the New Year, instead Gaston Point residents can’t forget about Friday night’s tragedy.
A New Year’s Eve party near the corner of Lewis Avenue and Old Pass Road turned violent with more than 50 gunshots ringing out just minutes before midnight.
On Sunday, authorities confirmed that a fourth person had died from his wounds. Three others were injured.
Now, the neighborhood is left to pick up the pieces.
Kendal Buckner was at a party at the Good Deeds Community Center during the time of the shooting. He knew some of the families who lost someone that night.
“I haven’t cried that hard. I haven’t shed that many years in a long time,” Buckner said. “A lot don’t get to me but with that, I was broken.”
Harrison County Coroner Brian Switzer said 52-year-old Nathaniel Harris died Sunday from multiple gunshot wounds. Harris was in critical condition in the hospital following the shooting.
Along with Harris, three other men died from their injuries, and Switzer identified the victims as 23-year-old Corey Dubose of D’Iberville, 28-year-old Sedrick McCord of Gulfport, and 22-year-old Aubrey Lewis of Bay St. Louis.
Gulfport Police investigators are on the case but key questions about what led up to the shooting and who is responsible are still unknown at this time.
“I don’t know if it was a build-up of emotions, or if it was a drive-by or if it was gang-related,” said Gulfport Councilman Kenneth “Truck” Casey.
Still, the community offers prayers for those who tragically lost someone that night. Especially since none of the deceased were over the age of 30.
“I can only imagine how these families feel with their children’s lives having been taken in such a senseless manner,” Morning Star Baptist Church Pastor John Whitfield said.
Community leaders say the loss of lives has the greatest impact on the victims who were young fathers.
“Every time we lose a young man, we don’t just lose that young man, we lose a generation. We lose the future. We lose a part of our strength,” Extend a Hand Help a Friend CEO Jeffrey Hulum III said.
Neighbors also feel shocked following the shooting after community leaders, church leaders and law enforcement all grouped together to curb youth violence citywide this past summer.
For the most part, those efforts were successful with little to no incidents in Gaston Point until minutes before the start of the new year.
Now, those same organizers ask the community to rally again and set better examples for the next generation.
“We need more people to help, to be mentors, to engage and embrace our young teens, young adults,” Whitfield said.
Whitfield mentions that parents should be more involved in what their children are doing and more help needs to be available for single-parent families.
“It takes a lot to make a living in society today. So when you have single-parent-headed households, whether they are male or female, most of those parents have to work two jobs to make ends meet. Mentoring would be very helpful,” he said.
Officials hope that parents, teachers, church leaders and adults, in general, do better to appeal to more of the troubled youth.
“I see people don’t value life. That is one of the problems with the youth today. They don’t know how to problem-solve. Everything is violence. Everything is they want to fight. No one wants to solve the problem,” Buckner said.
They also hope that someone from the more than two dozen party-goers steps up and shares what they saw with the police or Crime Stoppers.
“For us to have knowledge and to remain silent is to be complicit in the acts of violence,” Whitfield said.
In the meantime, Gaston Point leaders say they are open to suggestions to help keep their families, homes and businesses crime-free.
“We’re just a community of people of character, goodwill, God-fearing,” Hulum said. “When things happen you just have to attack it aggressively. This thing will solve itself out in the next 72 hours, God willing. If not, the community is going to solve it because we will not and cannot let this go unsolved. If this goes unsolved, it’s going to happen again. So we have to make sure that this thing is closed out in the right manner and provide healing and hope back to the people of not only this community but all surrounding communities.”
Some community leaders have reached out to the Harrison County prosecutor about the possibility of civil or criminal charges against the homeowner who hosted the New Year’s Eve party. No word yet on if there will be any charges.
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