MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – As part of National Victims Rights Week – loved ones left behind by violent crime – are mobilizing. The Mobile County District Attorney’s Office held its annual victims’ vigil.
Many of these families are still grieving and, in some cases, still seeking justice. The vigil was dedicated to them, their loved ones and the fight against violent crime.
Makenzie Hall, 13, was just 8 when her father Harry Williams Matthews III was killed.
“This is the fourth year that I have taken part in this event. I feel like it helps to show people my story… Like to cheer them on, it’s gonna be okay… Just to keep pushing,” Hall said.
The Mobile County District Attorney greeted the families at Cooper Riverside Park — saying she recognized old and new faces at this year’s vigil.
“We make sure we do everything we can to bring justice to these cases,” DA Rich said. “I can’t prosecute all of these cases, but I will tell you that the members of the Mobile County District Attorney’s Office – every single one of them – are here for you.”
Although the families may be strangers, they share their grief and the trauma of losing a loved one. Many have been victims of gun violence.
“Some of these kids I know – from the pictures here. Jasmine Pettway, I know. This loss to gun violence hurts – it’s a struggle – every day with everyone going on with their lives We’re still stuck with a void,” Courtney Smith Robinson said, in honor of her brother Rick Smith.
Gaige Taylor, 18, was killed five years ago. This is the first time his family has attended the wake.
“Gaige was loved by so many people. So we had a lot of support. A lot of people loved her,” said Tiffany Head, Gaige’s mother. “And I just want to point out that violence doesn’t stop violence. And that doesn’t help the situation, it just exacerbates it.
As the port city nearly set a homicide record last year, Mobile Public Safety Director Lawrence Battiste said they could not tackle the deadly violence alone.
“Just don’t report it – basically telling these individuals who are terrorizing particular neighborhoods and communities that it’s okay – because nobody’s going to say anything. So – I think instead of saying I scared to report…i think you should be scared not to report it,” Battiste said.
One by one, family members read aloud the names of their loved ones. A butterfly release also means they will never forget the tragically cut short lives.
Tiffany Head, Gaige Taylor’s mother, wanted to share the following message with the other families:
I want to start by offering my condolences to everyone here and to those who were unable to be with us but suffered because of the acts of violence in our community. I am really sorry. I may not know the exact situation of every family here today, but I understand your struggle, your pain and your loss. I know what it’s like to have your whole world turned upside down. I know the heartache, depression and even anger that floods your life like a mighty river and devours everything in its path. In 2017, I lost my son to senseless violence. Gaige had just turned 18, he had his whole life ahead of him and he didn’t deserve to die. No one deserves such a fate and my heart cries daily for him and the potential life he stole from him at such a young age.
Right now we come together to remember our loved ones, but today it’s not just about remembering. It is also about giving a voice that cries out Justice, a voice for those who can no longer speak for themselves. We all share a common thread, and a burden has been placed upon me for all who have suffered at the hands of violence. I wanted to gather statistics that demonstrated the seriousness of the circumstances in which Mobile finds itself. However, in preparing this speech today, I did not have time, but I do not need statistics to tell you about the crisis in which our city finds itself. As you all have unfortunately experienced the injustice of hatred and violence in your life. And to those who haven’t, open your eyes and ears, our sons and daughters are being killed every day. It is no longer safe to walk the streets, attend sporting events, or even sit in the comfort of your own car at a red light. Our crime rate is steadily rising, our justice and prison systems are broken and until they are fixed, and the violent perpetrators are taken off the streets and held accountable for their actions to a degree that reflects the seriousness of the crimes they commit, crime will continue to increase.
I am not here to point fingers, rather I am here to ask our fellow citizens to take action. No one should ever have to suffer such disparities as we have and I pray that the violence in our city will stop, but unless our citizens come out of their complacency, change will not happen. A democracy that is built for the people, of the people, will not last if it is not held accountable to the people. As citizens, we have a responsibility to get involved. It is imperative that we take an active part in our government by learning about the political position of our candidates and then participating in elections by voting. As voters, we must demand that our elected representatives represent our interests and our needs. We must demand that funds be made available to build new prison systems and work together to create legislation that reforms a failing system. No violent offender of the law should be released until they have served at least 80% of their sentence. The goal of our district attorneys is not to hand out sweetheart deals that send hardened, institutionalized murderers back to the streets to commit more crimes or even get aesthetically pleasing guilty verdicts on paper. Our district attorney’s job is to achieve justice, to uphold the law, to ensure that the guilty are held accountable and the innocent are not convicted of crimes they did not commit. Our AD must be willing to work for such justice and we must hold them accountable.
Before leaving you, I have a final appeal to our fellow citizens and victims. I ask you not to do justice to yourselves in the search for justice, by new acts of violence. Violence does not negate violence, it only exacerbates the current situation. My son Gaige had to learn this lesson at the cost of his life. I know and feel your frustration, but there is a better way to get justice. I do not wish the loss of a child on any mother. We must unite. Together our voices cannot be silenced, we must seek to build a safe and just community for all of our sons and daughters. I wish not to cause more chaos and destruction, but to illustrate to the world the impact of the love that Gaige has provided in my life and in doing so, we will leave a legacy on behalf of our loved ones that will build a better future.
Now please allow us to have a moment of silence in memory of our beloved followed by prayer.
God, I humble myself before you and come to you today with praise in my heart for you and only you are worthy. We come together to remember our departed loved ones, our mothers and fathers, our sons and daughters, our brothers and sisters, our nephews and nieces, our cousins and our dear friends. . Our lives have been changed forever because of senseless acts of violence and hatred; our hearts cry. Knowing that you are the great comforter Lord, I ask you to comfort those who are full of sorrow, to bring rest to the agitated and healing to the broken. I ask you to protect us from those who harbor evil intentions and wait in our city to claim the next victim, I pray that what was done in darkness will come to light, Lord, we seek justice prevails not only for our loved ones but for all citizens.
I ask you to form leaders within the community who will stand together and fight for the safety of our community. I pray that You will grant our chosen ones wisdom, strength and guidance so that justice may be achieved according to Your will. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. In the name of Jesus, God bless us all Amen.
Download the FOX10 weather app. Receive severe weather warnings and alerts for your location, wherever you are. Available for free in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.
Copyright 2022 WALA. All rights reserved.