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East side ‘OG Call’ seeks to solve teen violence

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — After the deadly shooting of a high school student and series of other shootings, community leaders on the near-east side had a news conference to discuss how to end violence in their community. 

Jomo Cole called the group together Thursday in what he referred to as an “OG Call,” or a call to original gangsters of the neighborhood, who are respected members and leaders in the area. 

“The community knows when that person comes to speak or say something about the community. They already know it’s not going to be sugar-coated, it’s not going to be false,” Cole said. “It’s going to be authentic and it’s going to be listened to.” 

The group gathered at a long table in a community space near East 10th Street and Jefferson Avenue, to speak to members of the media and share their message. Five men attended; each with their own perspective and solution. 

Clayton Hamilton, a local artist and representative of the Center for Leadership Development and the Art for a Heart group, explained how imperative it is that people who have information about a crime come forward and share that with law enforcement. He also shared his belief that art may be an outlet for bravery as opposed to violence. 

“Pick up a pencil, pick up a paintbrush, pick up whatever, a crayon, and do something creative. That’s brave,” Hamilton said. “Shooting somebody, hiding, that’s not brave.” 

Chef “T” Thomas Burnett from Mix Master’s LLC noted that the near-east side has several food deserts and children can’t think clearly when they’re malnourished. 

“Food is one of those necessary important balances,” Burnett said. “For one I would like to see the violence stop.” 

The Rev. David Scott of Circle City Christian Center pointed to violent video games as a cause for violent mentalities and a lack of understand of violence’s natural consequences.  

“The video games have come to life,” he said. “What’s the difference when they step out on these streets with a weapon on their hands and see individuals that they may have a light conflict with or more and they just pull the trigger.” 

Sity Wright, friend of Cole and a youth advocate, shared his experiences in school programs where fathers are active. He said after-school programs aren’t enough to curb youth violence; adults, particularly fathers, need to take a bigger role in the lives of young people. 

“We need to start a foundation — fathers to school, where we sit in class with these children and we’re not there to teach them anything, We’re in there to just understand what’s going on with these kids,” Wright said. 

Cole himself sat at the table as well, describing how he turned his life around and hopes to share that message of hope with youth and adults. 

“I used to be the drug dealer. I used to be that guy that runs around with pistols packing pistole,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of upright men to help govern these kids.” 

Cole was a mentor to 17-year-old Daymarko Tolefree, the Arsenal Tech High School junior who was shot and killed Tuesday after being pursued in his car. His mother, Barbara Tolefree, said she’s encouraged that the community is coming together to stop the violence. She said she is still in shock at the sudden loss of her son. 

“I never thought in a million years that I’d be sitting here talking about what he used to do instead of talking about what he’s going to be doing,” she said. 

Tolefree said she was more hopeful Thursday as a witness reached out to her with information. 

“I feel a little better, but it’s not all the way feeling better because I will  probably never be the same ever in life,” Tolefree said, “but I’ve got to be strong for my other three kids.”

Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department is seeking tips in the case. Call Crime Stoppers of Central Indiana anonymously at 317-262-8477. People can also submit a tip electronically and by downloading the P3 smartphone app. More information on Crime Stoppers tips can be found on its website.

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