‘Next thing you know, he left me’: After an unusually deadly month, loved ones reflect on the lives of Jackson homicide victims

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Eric J. Shelton, Mississippi Today/Report For America

Eric J. Shelton, Mississippi Today/Report For America

Mississippi’s capital has had 12 shooting in January alone. Jackson’s Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba and Gov. Phil Byrant have offered various proposals to combat crime, including Credible Messenger Mentoring, Violence Interrupter Training and a Real Time Crime Center.

First row from left: Rev. Anthony Finch Longino, Evan Henry, George Robinson, and De’Anthony Snell; Second row: Mack Pope, Kameron Cortez, Christopher Collins, 25 and Calphrion Vardman, 19; Third row: Demarcus Harris, 32, Julian Smith, Elizahown Burns and Quinvarus Devon Parker.

In January, there were 12 homicides in Jackson.

This continued a trend from the previous year when the number of homicides reached 84, making 2018 one of the deadliest in recent memory for the capital city. If January’s trend remains steady, homicides will soar to nearly 150 by year’s end.

In response to two slayings happening on the same day, Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba called for an open-carry ban and embraced Gov. Phil Bryant’s offer of $4 million for a real-time crime monitoring system.

Eric J. Shelton, Mississippi Today/Report For America

A sign warning that firearms are not permitted on the property of the John and Vera Mae Perkins Foundation hangs on the pole of street light in the 1900 block of Robinson Road in Jackson.

The collaboration recognizes that preventing gun violence is as much of a problem for state politicians as it is for municipal officials.

Fourteen states allow the open carry of a handgun without a license or permit. Mississippi allowed constitutional carry in 2016. In 2017, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 632 gun related deaths in Mississippi compared to 587 in 2016; in terms of homicides per 100,000 people, Mississippi has one of the highest murder rates in the U.S.

Last year, Jackson received a $150,000 grant to work on violent crime prevention. With this grant, Lumumba said Jackson would partner with the People’s Advocacy Institute to develop pilot programs such as Credible Messenger Mentoring and Violence Interrupter Training in hopes of preventing crime in Jackson.

In the meantime, there are the victims. Police sirens fade into cries of the bereaved, cries become somber silence. The grieving are left to put the pieces of their own lives back together and preserve memories of those lost.

In this essay, friends, family and loved ones share memories of some of Jackson’s victims as they remain buried under the reality of death. The images represent the earliest memories shared with the victims  juxtaposed with scenes of where they took their last breaths.

Julian Smith 

Julian Smith

On Jan. 5, Jackson police responded to a call of multiple shots fired on Palmyra Street. The police found Julian Smith, 38, with multiple gunshot wounds. He was transported to the local hospital, but died from his injuries. A second victim was injured, but he was stabilized. Steven Johnson, a friend of Julian, was there at the time of the shooting and held Julian in his arms as he waited for the paramedics.

That cold January day was one that will be forever etched in Johnson’s memory. “I think about it everyday. It’s hard to let go because it’s haunting,” Johnson said. “I held him in my arms for a long time until the paramedics got there, talking to him: ‘Please wake, don’t leave me right now, please don’t leave me.’ The next thing you know, he left me and I am still hurt behind it.”

The Rev. Anthony Finch Longino

Rev. Anthony Finch Longino

The Rev. Anthony Finch Longino, 69, was shot and killed during a suspected robbery while opening his church’s doors on Sunday, Jan.13. Later that night, 22-year-old Marquez Hamilton was taken into custody by the Hinds-Jackson SWAT team acting on tips. Police say Hamilton said that he and his friends planned the robbery. Authorities are currently trying to identify the remaining suspects.

According to Angel F. Longino, Anthony’s daughter, he was a loyal to his ministry and spreading the Bible’s teaching. “We would often walk in the community to hand out gift and fruit baskets during the holidays,” Angel said. “So we would walk down the community streets interacting and fellowshipping with the community, as well as trying to gain membership by passing out flyers to not only get them to attend my father’s church but to lead them in the direction to Christ.”

Elizahown Burns

Elizahown Burns

Elizahown Burns, 34, was killed on the same day as Kameron Cortez Virgil, 28, at a home in the 1900 block of Teakwood Avenue on Jan. 16. When the police arrived at the scene of their deaths, witnesses said they had killed each other in a gun battle after an argument. The reason for the argument is still being investigated. Residents were inside the home when they heard the gunshots. One of them was Patsy Nard-Maxwell, Elizahown Burns’ godmother.

She recalls his kind personality and thoughtfulness. “I knew him since he was a baby, and he was always so sweet. He would come over just to visit and that would make me feel so special. Sometimes I blame myself,” said Maxwell, who heard the men arguing before the shooting, but didn’t respond. “If I wasn’t in my room and went outside to tell them that they were being too loud, I felt like they would have respected and listened to me, and they would have stopped.”