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'There’s no opportunities for them but to put a gun in their hand' Families address rise in teen gun violence in Lansing

Posted at 7:23 PM, Jun 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-23 22:09:28-04

LANSING, Mich. — Nikole Smith says she’s living a mother's worst nightmare after losing her 19-year-old son Damon Johnson.

Nikole Smith says she’s living a mother's worst nightmare after losing her 19-year-old son Damon Johnson.

Damon, was one of two teens shot and killed near Rotary Park last week.

“When I got the call from my other son, I was in disbelief,” Nikole said.

“When I got the call from my other son, I was in disbelief,” Nikole said.

Family members said Damon was the life of the party, who made everyone laugh and kept a positive outlook, in some of the toughest times.

He was talented and had hopes of pursuing a career as a rapper.

He was talented and had hopes of pursuing a career as a rapper.

“It’s something that’s common in my family, we all have a passion for music,” Nikole said.

Damon wasn’t the only teen this year whose life was cut short due to gun violence.

Lansing Police said 4 teens have been shot and killed this year so far, which is much higher than last year.

From January through June of 2020, 1 teen was shot and killed in the city.

Titus Owens

“These kids are 16 or 17 years old and there’s no after-school programs for them to do and there’s no opportunities for them, but to put a gun in their hand,” said Damon’s cousin Titus Owens. “I guess to them, it’s easier to put a gun in a person’s hand to have them do something wrong than to put a piece of paper in their hand and have them do something constructive."

Police are investigating Damon's murder and the other cases, but for parents like Nicole… peace of mind seems almost impossible.

Police are investigating Damon's murder and the other cases, but for parents like Nicole… peace of mind, seems almost impossible.

"I would like to see justice for my son, in the form of him being here, but and I know that would never happen,” Nikole said. “So I can’t speak on gun violence because, in my eyes, I don’t think I’ll ever get justice.”

President Joe Biden announced Wednesday an effort to stem a rising national tide of violent crime as administration officials brace for what could be a turbulent summer.

Biden focused on attacking gun violence, funding cities that need police, and offering community support.

He and Attorney General Merrick Garland announced a “zero tolerance” policy that gives no leeway to gun dealers who fail to comply with federal law — their license to sell will be revoked on the first offense.

Erica Murphy

Erica Murphy

1:21 PM, Mar 03, 2021

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Erica Murphy

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