published Saturday, March 6th, 2010

Commissioner calls for a 'cease-fire' in violent communities

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    Staff Photo by Matt Fields-Johnson/Chattanooga Times Free Press Amanda Dave holds her 3-year-old son Landon Harris whlie she and her boyfriend Senneca Harris and William Matthews speak about their fears of violence in the neighborhood around the Kanku market on Wilcox Boulevard after their friend Terrence Etchison was shot to death outside the convenience store.

Across the street from the Kanku's gas station where two men were killed in the last two months, Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Beck called Friday for a "cease-fire" in the community.

Reading prepared statements to a crowd of 50 supporters and residents of North Brainerd, Mr. Beck swept schools, residents, families and local government into a speech that resembled a church sermon.

"We must declare cease-fire in our communities," he said. "Let it be said from every pulpit -- cease-fire. Let it be said by every teacher -- cease-fire. Let it be said from every dais -- cease-fire. Let it be said by every family member -- cease-fire. Let it be said by every media -- cease-fire."

A block up Wilcox Boulevard, at its intersection with Greenwood Avenue, campaign signs for both Mr. Beck and his challenger Bernie Miller stand near the edge of the road. Both are seeking the District 5 County Commission seat in the Democratic Party primary.

Since the Feb. 27 killing of Terrance Etchison, 27, city officials have met with both residents and the owners of Kanku's. The owners have pledged to hire more security. Previously, one off-duty police officer was at the store only in the late evenings.

Beginning Wednesday, an officer will be at the store from 6 p.m. until closing, which varies from 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. The owners agreed to add an officer from 9 p.m. until closing from Thursday through Sunday nights.

The gas station owners will meet with members of the North Brainerd Community Council at the Brainerd Recreation Center at 9 a.m. today.

But approaching the podium to speak to the gathered crowd, Mr. Beck said that the rally was "not about Kanku's."

"This is about young men killing each other in our community," he said.

Some residents say more police and security isn't enough to help.

Senneca Harris, a close friend of Mr. Etchison, listened to the Friday rally with his girlfriend and their 3-year-old son, Landon. He and his girlfriend, Amanda Davis, said both Kanku's and the gas station across the street are hangouts for troublemakers.

Coming Sunday

Community group meets with Kanku's owners.

TIMELINE OF TROUBLE

* June 2005 -- Despite a neighborhood petition against it, the Chattanooga City Council approves a zoning change for the Kanku's station to be built on Wilcox Boulevard. Petitioners say the area already has a lot of crime, is under-patrolled by police and a service station selling beer will only make things worse.

* January 2009 -- Police doing an underage beer-buying investigation are present at the station when a black Hummer jumps the curb and pulls into the lot at a high rate of speed. Several young men get out and begin yelling and flashing gang signs at nearby patrons, police said. A disorder ensues, which police put down. Officers find open alcohol, a pistol and bags of marijuana in the Hummer.

* July 30, 2009 -- Anthony Blocker, 28, is shot in the chest outside the Kanku's about 5:30 p.m.

* Jan. 9, 2010 -- Jonathan Lawrence, a customer pumping gas into his car, is fatally shot. Police charged Montez Davis -- who they said is "a validated gang member" -- with first-degree murder.

* Feb. 27, 2010 -- A shooting in the parking lot leaves a 27-year-old man dead. Police on Monday charged Jamaal Byrd with first-degree murder in the shooting of Terrance Etchison.

Source: Newspaper archive

Pointing both hands at each station, Ms. Davis said that both need to be closed.

Gang members know they can escape from the area easily on the close cross streets, Mr. Harris said, and they'll come to buy beer and cause trouble.

He and Ms. Davis avoid the stores at nighttime, he said, when the parking lot is crowded and often dangerous.

"Somebody bumps up into you at the store and you don't know what's on their mind. Say 'Excuse me' and they're like 'Excuse me ain't good enough,' they got to take it outside," he said.

Ms. Davis held Landon close as he tried to play in the lot across from the gas station.

"If I could put him in a bubble I would," she said. "I would rather just move away from Chattanooga, live in the country somewhere with no neighbors."

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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rolando said...

Makes good tabloid news, I guess, but the call for a "ceasefire" will be as effective as pouring sand down a rathole.

The gas stations are just a minor symptom of a much larger, poisonous blight on our society -- gangs and neighborhoods that support or empower them.

March 6, 2010 at 6:51 a.m.
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