Jackie DeBose never thought gun violence would impact her family — one that’s filled with doctors, lawyers and other professionals.
But seven years ago, her 24-year-old nephew, Jason Monroe, was shot in the head and killed in Berkeley, Calif., during a scuffle over a computer.
DeBose recounted the story Thursday during a city-sponsored National Gun Violence Awareness Day rally in a parking lot at the corner of Copley Road and Storer Avenue in West Akron.
She also issued a warning to the crowd, many of whom wore orange, the official color of the day.
“No matter who you are and where you are, you are not exempt from a bullet,” said DeBose, who is retired and now lives in Akron.
The rally was one of many held across the country as part of the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Mayors Against Illegal Guns effort.
It took place in West Akron because authorities respond to more gunshot wounds in the 44320 ZIP code than any other area, city leaders said.
Mayor Dan Horrigan, who organized the rally, said there were 22 gun-related homicides in Akron last year, and city authorities responded to 90 gunshot victims in the community.
“It’s not just one day,” he said. “We need to think about this every day of the year.”
The rally also featured speeches by state Reps. Greta Johnson, D-Akron, and Emilia Sykes, D-Akron; Mountain of the Lord Church Pastor Eugene Norris; and Kelly McDougal, head of the Summit/Portage County chapter of the Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
Norris talked about how it was a difficult drive for him to the event because one of his parishioners, 17-year-old Willie Brewer III, was shot and killed in 2012 at a convenience store across the street from the rally.
Johnson announced that Akron and Barberton are planning a two-day gun buyback event Aug. 26-27 at the Word Church, 1700 Brittain Road, Akron.
The program, called “Piece for Peace,” will buy long guns for $50 and handguns for $100, no questions asked.
“Our goal is to take one gun and save one life,” Johnson said.
Organizers hope other communities also participate.
Wylene Edwards, who was shot in both shoulders in January 2013, attended the rally to show her support.
The North Akron woman had flashed her headlights at two men walking in the middle of the road and they responded by opening fire on her car.
Edwards, who wore an orange T-shirt with the word “Survivor” on it, now works with the Everytown Survivor Network in Washington, D.C.
“It’s important for me to make people aware that if you see something, you need to say something,” she said about guns. “Even if it’s in your family.”
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @armonrickABJ.