Weekend shooting reinforces need for programs combating youth gun violence
Police in Cedar Rapids are investigating what led to the shooting death of a Metro High School Student over the weekend.
The shooting happened at around 11:48 p.m. on Friday, January 24, 2020, near the 3200 block of Agin Court NE, just off of Blairs Ferry Road.
Two teenagers were involved in that shooting incident. Andrew Gaston, 18, died Saturday after being taken to UnityPoint St. Luke’s Hospital. The other victim involved was a 16-year-old boy who sustained a non-life threatening gunshot wound.
Police have not yet released any more details but do say the victims were targeted.
Last year, police statistics show there were a total of 99 shots fired incidents in the city, 18 fewer than the year prior.
The City of Cedar Rapids and the Cedar Rapids School District invested money to try and tackle youth violence. With community input, they created the SET Task Force, housed at the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation.
The SET Task Force recently provided nearly $17,000 to the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Corridor for a program it calls 'Street Smarts.” That program reaches out to youth to teach them how to resist and say no when confronted with gun violence.
“It’s not only going to benefit kids that already come to the Boys and Girls Club, part of it is outreach to kids that aren’t part of the club. So we are actually going to go find those kids and talk to schools about who they think the kids are that maybe really need this program,” John Tursi, Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Corridor, said.
Tursi said funding is the main way to help combat gun violence with youth.
“Just like everything in the world, there is so much money that is needed to do this stuff that it’s really hard to get all of it,” Tursi said. “I think what we are trying to do, what I think the SET Task Force has set out to do with money now is, one step at a time, just keep working away at the problem and eventually we will make bigger dents.”
Tursi said he believes reaching kids at a younger age, rather than when they are teens can also greater help with curbing gun violence, which is an issue citywide.
“Gun violence today is a huge concern and I would say it affects everybody in the city of Cedar Rapids," Tursi said. "You look at where the shots are being fired and where they are coming from, it’s all over."
Tursi also said the responsibility to help end gun violence starts with families and neighborhoods. He said he encourages everyone to stay proactive and make calls to police whenever you see something.