By KENNETH DEAN, firstname.lastname@example.org
The killing of a woman shot in a Tyler park while cradling her child is being called gang related and has prompted one black community leader to call for a summit on crime.
Briana Raquel Young, 20, was gunned down about 9:40 p.m. Tuesday in P.T. Cole Park on Vine Street while being caught in the crossfire of rival gang members, Tyler authorities said.
The Rev. Jerome Milton, senior pastor of the Greater New Pleasant Hills Baptist Church, said the violence underscores the need for issues within the black community to be addressed. He said the community needs to be “more proactive than reactive.”
“We need to come together in a stop-the-violence summit to say, as a community, enough is enough,” Milton said. “We are good at coming together when something happens to one of us by a cop or some other situation, but we are not coming together to stop the violence in our own race.
“To get on track we have to go back, and that is we have to go back to unity in the community.”
Tyler police spokesman Don Martin said Ms. Young was pronounced dead at the scene where she collapsed Tuesday, just feet away from playground equipment.
Ms. Young fell atop her 3-year-old child to protect him, witnesses said.
The shooting appeared to be gang-related, with several shooters firing more than a dozen rounds of bullets, he said.
Martin said the child was not injured in the shooting, and there were no other reported injuries, although gunfire riddled a nearby home, causing the family inside to take cover.
“I saw it all, and I have never seen anything like that before in my life, and I am about to be 42 years old,” witness Opal Roberson said.
Ms. Roberson said she was going to the convenience store when she saw a white passenger car turn onto Mockingbird Street next to the P.T. Cole Park before stopping.
“That black man jumped out of the car with a handgun and just opened fire,” she said. “It was blam-blam-blam. I shoved my grandbaby down in the floorboard and told my daughter to not even stop at the stop sign. When we got back, that poor girl was lying by the playground slide … on top of her baby.”
Ms. Roberson said the residents in a house next to the park had to take cover after bullets penetrated their home and struck their kitchen microwave.
“It was wild,” she said. “I just moved here a month ago, and the babies loved going to the park, but they will not be going back over there. The police need to do something about these young thugs.”
Tyler police detectives and patrol units combed the park and the neighborhood Wednesday, looking for evidence. Officers examined garbage cans, trees and houses for evidence of gunfire.
Ms. Roberson said the black community must work to stop this type of violence nationwide.
“If this keeps up, there will be no black race, because these young black men are killing each other and innocent bystanders with their senseless violence,” she said. “We have to do something now.”
Milton noted that decades ago, there was little black-on-black crime, but during the past 20 years, it has exploded.
“Somewhere along the way, we have lost the sense of a proud community,” he said. “We need to have an all-out attack on the root system and reach these young black boys at 3 and 4 years old, instead of trying to react when violence breaks out.”
Milton said local pastors and community leaders must address the problem soon.
“We need a solution and not to identify the problem,” he said. “We already know the problem and have for some time. Now it’s time to try to fix the problem, with everyone taking some responsibility.”
Tyler police are asking anyone with information about the shooting to contact the Tyler Police Department at 903-531-1000 or Crimestoppers at 903-597-2833.