Emotions, community, family, and education all took center stage outside the Clarence R. Kelly Center on Friday. Four simple words repeated over and over — put the guns down.
The Gainesville Police Department (GPD) hosted “A Night of Compassion” to remember and honor the victims who have lost their lives due to gun violence in Alachua County.
The evening began with nearly 20 police vehicles performing a drive-by down NE 8th Avenue past the Clarence R. Kelly Center with sirens and lights flashing.
The program featured remarks from Gainesville Police Chief Lonnie Scott, elected officials, victims’ families and friends, and numerous GPD officers.
“It is important to honor the people we lost to gun violence and come together as a community to say ‘we are here together with you to try and figure this out,” Supervisor for Victim Services for Alachua County and GPD Brittany Coleman said in an interview.
Three families who experienced a loved one fall victim to gun violence in Gainesville were in attendance and spoke out about the grief, concern, and long-lasting effects the tragedies have on their lives.
Stephanie Scott lost her son Christopher Scott on June 24, 2021, after he was shot and killed at a party at the American Legion Post 16 at 4701 NW 6th St. He was 13 years old. The mother spoke emotionally about the importance of parents knowing who their kids surround themselves with and the dangerous reality of gun violence.
“The message is for the youth to put down the guns,” Scott said. “Kids need to talk to their parents and figure out what is really going on because it’s about something the kids are personally going through, and unfortunately, at times, they take it out on other people. This event is just very important.”
School Board of Alachua County (SBAC) member Diyonne McGraw and Alachua County Public Schools (ACPS) interim Superintendent Shane Andrew attended the event to give their condolences to the families and support the GPD with its gun violence initiative.
“This event is a commitment to ensure our children are okay,” McGraw said. “You see the violence and other things, but those are just symptoms of a larger problem. It is time to work with the whole family. I visit the schools, and discipline is a huge issue, and if we don’t make that change, we will lose many good people.”
Members of the GPD Gainesville U.N.I.T.E.D. dedicated the month of December to gun violence awareness. GPD collaborated with local neighbors to bring attention to gun violence with the goal and focus on education, engagement, and mobilization toward reducing gun violence in the community.
Gainesville U.N.I.T.E.D. is a GPD initiative that combats gun violence. It raises awareness and gains momentum around gun violence awareness so the community can come together and face the issue.
“We want to unite the city of Gainesville,” said GPD Sgt. Joseph Castor. “Law enforcement is nothing without the community, and the community is nothing without law enforcement. We must work together, leave our emotions out, and reach that common goal of stopping violence. Enough is enough.”
GPD plans on having programs and events at least once a month to get community members together and share the goal of putting violence to rest.