Emotions run high during Charlottesville gun violence forum

Published: Feb. 27, 2023 at 11:45 PM EST
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Anger, frustration, sadness, and moments of high tension all played out during a forum on gun violence Monday night. Charlottesville Police Chief Michael Kochis says that above all, there is one thing that’s clear: “Charlottesville is a community that cares.”

“I wanted to hear the heart of the chief. He’s new. I want to find out what his ideas are,” attendee Mary Coleman said.

Coleman was one of the more than 100 people who showed up to make their voices heard. The forum was organized by Chief Kochis after the most recent shooting in the city, which claimed the life of 20-year-old Nicklous Pendleton.

Some chose to speak to the crowd instead of police, saying it’s everyone’s duty to help stop gun violence.

“When points are raised about parents need to do A-B-C and police need to do X-Y-Z, we also have to collectively ask ourselves, ‘what are you doing?’” Wes Bellamy said.

Not everybody who attended felt like they left with answers.

“I wanted to bet get a better sense of what community policing is, and I don’t think it really got that tonight. I made this comment of, you know, what are you measuring to see if the community policing is happening, and I don’t think the chief had an answer prepared tonight, but I plan to hold him to it,” Ian Ayers said.

Chief Kochis says he takes every comment seriously.

“It’s a community that wants to be involved with this with solutions, and they came tonight with some solutions. They came with some some ideas, we documented some of those ideas, and we’re going to work with the community to put them in place,” Chief Kochis said. ”The community has to know that it wasn’t just words, that they didn’t just come here one night. They have to know that we’re going to continue to reassess what we’re doing, and there’s some great takeaways out of tonight, some great ideas.”

Attendees hope the ideas discussed will help spark action.

“I think his answers were sufficient for now. I think the proof will be in how he follows up with all of us to put into practice some of our suggestions,” Coleman said.

Because it was so crowded, not everyone could fit inside the venue. Chief Kochis says he’ll be sure to secure a larger space for these forums in the future.

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