Members of the Laurel community, including the mothers of two teenagers murdered recently by gunfire, turned out to a town meeting to find ways to address the issue of street violence impacting young people and families.
The meeting, held Sunday, Nov. 12 at the Paul Dunbar Community Center, was hosted by the newly organized “Operation West Laurel,” a citizens group organized to find ways to help stop violence in the town that has cost three lives and injured six more in the past six months.
Earlier this year, on April 14, 18-year-old Laurel High School student Corey Mumford was killed outside Wexford Village apartments. Arrests have been made in the incident and police said Mumford was not the intended target of the shooting.
On Sept. 10, 26-year-old Taylor German was shot and killed outside Little Creek apartments. She was in a vehicle with two other people, one of whom was also shot but survived. No arrests have been announced in her case.
The most recent shooting occurred on Oct. 30, when three teenagers, including 18-year-old Kylee Robinson were on the porch of a residence in the 500 block of West 7th Street. Robinson was killed in the shooting and the two other teens were injured and hospitalized with wounds to the lower body.
Amy Handy, founder of OWL, addressed the audience, which included Delaware Gov. John Carney. She told Carney that the Laurel community is “devastated and heartbroken” and needs his help.
Shown (l to r) during Sunday’s meeting are panel members Laurel Town Manager Jamie Smith, Laurel Mayor John Shwed, and Gov. John Carney. Photo by Tony Windsor
“Three of the most promising, talented, smart, witty, precious assets of our community have been taken from us, within a six month period,” she said. “Corey [Mumford], Taylor [German] and Kylee [Robinson], and two of these, Corey and Kylee didn’t even get a chance to begin their lives. Six of our youth have been injured, leaving them mentally scarred and traumatized.
“Governor Carney we need your help. Our community is devastated, our hearts are breaking. We feel empty, hopeless, some of us are angry. We are perplexed. We are filled with every imaginable emotion. We are losing our babies to gun violence,” she said.
Handy said OWL was formed the day following the shooting death of Corey Mumford. She said since April, the group has been holding community meetings. “We have been boots on the ground, engaging our community, and listening to them, particularly our youth. We have been in the streets praying with them. We have been trying our hardest to keep their lights alive and shining bright. And yet, out of nowhere we are hit with two more tragedies. Governor Carney, we need your help.”
Carney addressed the audience saying that like his predecessor, Gov. Jack Markell, he sees Delaware as “a state of neighbors.” Using the term, Carney said that neighbors come to the support of neighbors when there is trouble. “We know after experiencing the gun violence we have seen in Laurel, and across the state, there is trouble for us to attend to. I know from seven years as your Governor, that the Governor does not come up with the solutions. The Governor is not a law enforcement officer, he or she is not a school teacher, or social worker. But, it is the Governor’s responsibility to bring all of these folks together to address problems when they arise,” he said.
Carney said immediately after the shooting of Corey Mumford, he reached out to the state police to ensure that there was support for the Laurel Police Department, including investigation of the murder. He said the state police have also engaged the state’s “Group Violence Intervention,” a program that originated in Wilmington and works with groups and gangs that engage in similar violent activities and engage members to find out what the problems are that result in the violence.
Carney said the problem in each community is different and the program attempts to work with members of the groups to find out what it is that leads to the violent activities. “We stand ready to answer your request for our help. I am here on a Sunday night in November because we have a neighbor who has a problem. You are our neighbor, and we’re here to help.”
One by one, members of the audience made comments expressing frustration at what everyone agreed was senseless violence and loss of life. None of those who spoke pointed fingers, or laid the blame for the deaths and violence at the feet of any particular entities. The common thread among the speakers was a message imploring people in the community to “stand up” and be visible in helping guide the community’s youth.
There were pleas for parents to be aware of their children’s activities and the people they spend time with. Parents and churches were encouraged to “come outside” and lead the youth by example and help guide them. Most importantly, everyone youth and adults alike were urged to “say something, if they saw something.” This in response to Laurel Police Chief Danny Wright’s plea for anyone who saw anything that would be helpful to police in the most recent shooting of Kylee Robinson, to make an anonymous statement to Crime Stoppers.
“This happened on a Sunday afternoon in broad daylight in a residential area,” he told the audience. “Someone saw something. Someone knows who did this. Please share this information. You can do it anonymously by calling Crime Stoppers. We do not need to know who you are. We just want to be able to use the information to help us in this investigation.”
Oversized photos of the young people who have been killed by gun violence were posted on the wall of the gymnasium behind Governor Carney and other community leaders invited to be a part of the town meeting. Danielle Stevens, mother of Kylee Robinson, said seeing the photo of her son on the wall was difficult for her at first.
“I should not have to come into this room and see all of these kids’ pictures,” she said. “You all are seeing a picture, you’re not seeing my son, because my son was full of life.” She went on to say that she is dealing with “what ifs” and other personal reflections since losing Kylee. “I have thought about things that could have been,” she said. “But, until you hold yourself accountable as a parent, you will never see a change.”
Stevens said she worked two jobs and oftentimes her daughter took care of her siblings while she was at work. “I was so busy working, that I was not as aware of just how much influence I had over my kids. They would be playing music that was a little violent and we didn’t think anything of it. We thought it was ok so we would just laugh and have a good time. But, what we don’t realize is that what we are showing them is what they are learning,” she said.
Stevens said she is confident someone knows what happened to her son and who was involved. She said a video circulating on social media captured the shooting. “I don’t know why someone would want to put a video of someone getting shot on social media,” she said. “This is someone’s son, someone’s brother, this is your friend.
“The video shows my son being shot and once he fell to the ground, the shooters stood over him and shot him multiple times. This was in broad daylight. The shooter had time to run up the street and my son lay there for a full minute with no one helping him. Do you know how long a minute is when you are lying shot, thinking no one is coming to help you?”
Stevens said young people and their families alike, need to be aware of who the kids are hanging around with. “You don’t know if the people your child is hanging with may have connections with someone who is capable of doing harm not only to them, but your child, simply because they are with them,” she said. “These kids today are so wrapped up in this world and so deep into social media, I am not sure what you can do for them, except be there for them. I don’t know what to say, or do.
“But, I know that my son is gone and he is not coming back. Please don’t be the next parent who has to stand up here and say that their child was outside and someone just rolled up on them and started shooting. These are not Laurel kids killing each other. These are kids coming from outside of town to kill our children. Somebody knows what happened to my son and who did it. You may be scared to say something, but just know that sooner or later, it could be you who ends up dead.”
Corey Mumford was on spring break when he was gunned down on the afternoon of April 14. He was named one of the top 15 high school basketball players in Delaware. According to his obituary, Corey wore “00” on his basketball jersey which meant “zero fears- zero regrets. Bet on yourself double or nothing.”
His mother, Tesha Horsey, was in attendance at the public meeting and addressed the crowd gathered in the Dunbar gym. “When my son was killed, the newspaper report said he was ‘in the wrong place at the wrong time.’ That broke my heart because what they are saying is that the people who shot my son were ‘in the right place at the right time.’ There is no right place for guns in our community. We have a generation of young people 18 years old and younger who have been traumatized because they are friends and family of these young people who have been killed.”
Horsey said it is difficult for parents to monitor their children’s every action because they have to work. She said the community should be there for the children, but it is also up to government officials to address the issue of guns in the communities.
“What are we going to do about guns? The guns are in our community. What are we going to do about that?” she asked. “The people who were arrested for killing my son were all felons and all prohibited from having access to guns. Yet they all came to Laurel with guns and shot and killed my son. In the state of Delaware we need to address the issue of illegal guns coming into our communities. This will not stop with this last shooting, it will continue until we find a way to address the issue of illegal guns.”
Gov. Carney vowed to stay involved with police and community leaders, including OWL, in an effort to work together to find opportunities to address the issue of violence, including gun-related crime that is impacting the Laurel community.