BECKLEY, WV (LOOTPRESS) – The wave of shooting-related deaths and injuries which swept through the Beckley area last week was a key issue in Tuesday’s meeting of the Beckley City Council.
The meeting opened with the news from Beckley Mayor Rob Rappold that 26-year-old, LaShawn Deondre Shelton, a victim of a shooting on Saturday, had succumbed to his injuries, passing away at CAMC Hospital. This development was also confirmed by City of Beckley Deputy Police Chief David Allard.
A moment of silence was observed before proceedings moved on to old business, where the ongoing city pool situation took precedence.
Attention was quickly brought back the ongoing gun-violence in the city, which has elicited a degree of public concern so as to inspire residents to join together in a walk for unity last Sunday.
The public participation portion of the meeting saw over half a dozen community members speak to the continuing issues, including U.S. Navy veteran and aunt of LaShawn Deondre Shelton, Alishia Dowdin, who fought back tears while addressing city council members members.
“I fought hard for this country just to come home in 2015 and see that we’re in another warzone,” said Dowdin, begging for answers from city leaders. “I just want to know what you’re going to do,” she exclaimed.
“It’s heartbreaking that we lose young people, said Mayor Rappold. It makes me so sad. I can’t say I’m as upset as you are; I didn’t lose a loved one. But it’s very sad that we’re experiencing this.”
Many of those who spoke presented similar concerns to which council members stated the city was doing what it could to address the issues.
One participant touched on the Thursday shooting of Beckley resident Malique Shaquille Medley in his vehicle. The incident, which occurred directly in the presence of his family, resulted in the passing of the 30-year-old.
“He had his pregnant wife and kids in the car, and 32 bullets went into that car,” she asserted, further stating that her own son was in fear of his safety just as many others throughout the community currently are.
“My son is afraid to drive to work,” she declared.
Another speaker called upon community members to unite and stand together to combat these deeply rooted issues, which, in no small part, include substance abuse – an issue which has long been a substantial concern throughout the state as a whole.
“Let there be justice for those who lost their lives and that lost their way to drugs and substance abuse,” he said. “We also need positive outlets for people who struggle with addiction. We are talking about saving lives and protecting lives. So, let’s unite under God and come together as a whole, and bring change starting today.”
“Being here as a 15-year-old student of Woodrow Wilson High School and seeing all of this revolve and happen around me is just crazy,” said a subsequent teenaged participant who also took to the podium.
“Many people carelessly take advantage of gun use and manipulate the tool without much thought to any repercussions. Many lives have been lost due to people legally or illegally obtaining guns and taking matters upon themselves to be executors and holding other people’s lives in their hands,” she said.
“There should be no reason that I should be afraid to walk to my bus stop because of gun violence.”
Running well over half an hour, the Public Participation portion of Tuesday’s meeting of the Beckley City Council would ultimately be the central focus of proceedings, which were eventually called to be adjourned by the mayor who declared that time had run out.