Twelve-year-old Jerith Eaddy doesn't know a lot of the story behind it, but he knows his stepfather was shot.

"He showed me the gunshot wounds," said the seventh-grader at Miller South School for Visual and Performing Arts. "They were all over his leg."

His brother, 10-year-old Jacire Eaddy, said he has friends who used to be good kids but have started down a path toward drugs and violence — following an example set by their parents.

“I think if adults or cousins and family members just stopped doing that, then maybe the kids right now, this generation, would start learning better," the Miller South fifth-grader said.

The brothers were among a handful of people who gathered at the Vernon Odom Boulevard branch of the Akron-Summit County Public Library on Thursday evening to discuss possible solutions to Akron's gun-violence problem.

Jerith Eaddy said parents set an example for their kids.

“If you have guns around the house ... or you just let them lay around, that's showing them, 'Ooh, that's a gun; ooh, that's what a gun does,' ” he said. “That's gonna allow them to be curious about 'What is that, how do you do this, what does that do,' which leads to kids smoking, kids shooting up places."

Miller South eighth-grader Jazaiah Curtis, 13, said friends and parents influence what children do.

“What your friends do reflects on what you do and who you like to hang out with, and they start rubbing off on you,” she said. “And if they're doing bad things, then you're gonna be influenced to do bad things. And if your parents are doing bad things, then you're gonna do bad things.”

Violence has affected Curtis’ family, too. Her grandfather was stabbed to death last Thanksgiving. She doesn’t know why.

"I feel like we need to just figure something out, a way to stop it,” she said of Akron's violence.

The town hall was put on by community group "Put Down the Guns and Pick Up Your Lives," founded by Akron native and licensed minister Demetrius Sanders in 2016.

The gathering was for adults to learn what children think they should do to curb gun violence so “they can walk the streets and go to school without hearing gunshots,” said Sanders, 38, who's lost family members, including a cousin and his best friend’s nephew, to gun violence.

“I want these kids to get their lives together so they won't end up dead, buried or in prison,” Sanders said.

So far in 2018, there have been 31 homicides in Akron, according to the Akron Police Department. Of those, 27 deaths were caused by gunshots. Akron saw 42 homicides in 2017, with 27 people shot.

 

Curtis said curbing gun violence and drug use will save lives.

“It's just common sense,” she said. “If you don't have a way to shoot them, and then you don't have drugs, people will still be dying, but, like, I feel like it'd be slower, and it would save more lives."

Both Eaddy brothers said people in the community need to stop using drugs.

“Stop drugs. Stop selling it, smoking. Put it away,” Jerith Eaddy said. “Get a job. Go to college. Get a loan.”

Jacire Eaddy said people should only smoke marijuana for medical reasons.

“There's no reason in smoking. It just influences, just, younger kids to say, 'Oh, that's cool. I want to do that when I get older,' " he said. “I think everyone should stop smoking and stop having a gun just to show it off. There's no point in that."

Jerith Eaddy said if people stop using drugs, the community will be safer.

“I think that if that happens — people stop smoking, stop doing drugs — there would no more be shooting over drugs,” he said. “If there were no drugs, everyone would be friendly. You might not like someone. Don't talk to them, OK. That would stop. There would be more jobs because people would have to go to college to get jobs, and the economy would just be so much better."

 

Beacon Journal writer Emily Mills can be reached at 330-996-3334, emills@thebeaconjournal.com and @EmilyMills818.