WASHINGTON — After seven shootings in D.C. left four people dead over the weekend, community groups are working to get would-be shooters to put the guns down.
"It's disheartening," violence interrupter Wali Johnson said. "Just to think about the parents and the children that we lose. It’s at an alarming rate.”
Johnson serves as a program director for Violence Interrupters, going community to community to broker ceasefires.
"We're trying to get a code in place to kind of change the culture," he said. "So what we're gonna do is empower and take the resources and give it to those key individuals in those communities and train them to actually do the work in their own communities."
Roger Marmet is working to funnel resources to groups like the violence interrupters. He co-founded Peace for D.C. in July to raise money for small community groups doing the work to stop violence on a granular level.
His passion stems from tragedy. His 22-year-old son Tom was driving home from his job in 2018 when he was shot and killed by a man firing across traffic.
“If I had been in that car, I know my son would be out here fighting for change, fighting, not just for me, but for every victim of gun violence in D.C." Marmet said. "And that's why I want to bring change.”
Marmet said they'll support training for violence interrupters and help encourage focused policing and focused deterrence. Another key area for the group is mental health resources, he said.
"We have to reach them. We have to let them know they're not alone," Johnson said. "We have to let them understand the impact that is having on the city as a whole.”
Marmet said once violence interrupters like Johnson convince individuals to put down their guns, they need support to stay on that path.
"You have to for many of them, give them their first chance. Because all of these guys, and it's mostly men have had a life of trauma. I get that even though you know, my son was killed by someone, I understand that trauma and circumstances beyond an individual's control have driven them into the position of being at risk of perpetrating gun violence," he said.
He said support comes in the way of educational assistance, substance abuse care, soft skills training, and interpersonal skills training.
Meanwhile, the city launched Building Blocks D.C. this year to target street blocks they calculated sees the most gun violence and the people at the highest risk of becoming shooters.
Still, at the moment, homicides are still outpacing last year's surge.
"There are no violent neighborhoods. There are no lost communities. And frankly, every one of these individuals also has hopes and dreams," Marmet said. "We also know there's a bunch of guys out there right now who if we can get on another path, we can actually save the people who they might have shot and injured or killed."