Virginia Beach residents discuss gun violence and trust in police

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va, (WAVY) — Members of the Seatack community in Virginia Beach say they are tired of gun violence.

Tuesday night, several people came together to talk about the importance of ending gun violence in Virginia Beach and other Hampton Roads cities.

The event was organized by local Pastor James Risper of God’s Assemblage of Faith Church in Norfolk. Despite working and currently living in Norfolk Risper has a connection to Virginia Beach because he was born and raised there. Virginia Beach is also where his only son, Delongutey Coston, was shot and killed in 2006.

“I don’t think nobody wants to feel the way me and his mother feel when we heard about him being murdered,” said Risper.

Risper said he has been working with Virginia Beach police for more than a month about holding a discussion on gun violence. However, when 22-year-old Devontai Snowden was shot and killed on Saturday in the Atlantis Apartments off Birdneck Road, Risper said he was motivated to hold the event right away.

“It’s not an issue of guns polluting Virginia Beach,” said Risper at Tuesday’s event. “The issue is us. We have to make a difference. We have to change.”

Risper invited command staff from the police department’s second precinct to attend the event, which was held in the Birdneck Shopping Center parking lot next to the Atlantis Apartments. Lt. Kenny Miller regularly spends time in the Seatack community and said he wants residents to feel comfortable with police.

“Forget my uniform,” Miller said to the group gathered in the parking lot.

Miller said he and his colleagues want Virginia Beach residents to learn to trust and work with police to solve crime in the community.

“There’s no ‘us’ and ‘you.’ It’s a ‘we,'” explained Miller. “We solve problems. We partner. We work together. We do things to enhance the community.”

Blanch Beavers Moore, a lifelong Seatack resident, said she will be more inclined to call police and share information if it means ending violence in her community. She hopes others will turn to police if they have information on the shooting that took Snowden’s life.

“I just wish anybody out there that knows something, please speak to the law enforcement,” said Beavers Moore. “Because they can’t do their job and find his murderer unless you speak out.”

Risper said he is in the middle of planning another event to raise community awareness about gun violence. He said it will be Oct. 10 at the Meyera Oberndorf Central Library.

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