Gangs, drugs lead to death, Chattanooga speaker tells church

Gangs, drugs lead to death, Chattanooga speaker tells church

January 25th, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond stirred controversy among some people -- and vigorous agreement among others -- with his recent remarks about hardened gang members, who pose a deadly threat to others.

At a meeting of the Brainerd Kiwanis Club, he said, "We need to run them out of town, put them in jail or send them to the funeral home."

But whatever your views of the sheriff's remarks, a reformed drug kingpin who recently visited Chattanooga made it clear to his audience at New Emmanuel Missionary Baptist Church that gangs and drugs can and do have deadly consequences.

T.J. Johnson, who got involved in those dangerous pursuits as a child, held a bag representing a kilo of cocaine, as well as a silver platter full of money and a fake gun.

"These were the wages of my sin," he told his listeners, many of them young people.

He pointed out how drug dealing creates the illusion of easy riches.

"But all of it leads to death!" he shouted. "All of it leads to death!"

Tragically, he would know. When Johnson was a teenager, gang members shot and killed his brother. But for his future wife's persuading him to forgive the killer and leading him to church, he said, he would have killed his brother's murderer.

Johnson served four years in prison for drug trafficking, but today he is president of the Wake Up Youth Foundation, based in Memphis. He helps young people make better choices than he did early on.

We commend him on the life he leads now, and we hope young people in Chattanooga and elsewhere heed his message about the devastating results of a life of crime.