JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Records show gun violence in Jacksonville continues to disproportionately affect the black community at an alarming rate.
According to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, there were 116 murders in 2017. Of these, 80 victims (68.9%) were black and 34 victims (29.3%) were white.
There were 141 murders in 2020. Of these, 110 were black victims (78%) versus 30 white victims (21.2%).
Maurice Hobbs was one of those stats in 2017.
“Maurice had just turned 18 two days before he was shot. January 26th, 2017 was the day he began to live through me, ”said Latasha Hobbs, the mother of Maurice Hobbs.
Hobbs was driving to pick up her son when he was shot.
“I took a wrong turn and moments later gunshots rang out,” Hobbs said. “I often have problems, maybe he would still be here if I had just walked straight and not turned right. It’s a fight. I am his mother, I live and breathe for my children. It is my duty. It is my job to protect my children. I feel like I have failed. I do. I feel like I have failed. It’s a pain that never goes away. The what-ifs are always there. What could I have done differently? “
Hobbs has a message for those who murdered their son.
“Those responsible for harming my son may have forced him to transcend, but they never took his life. I have to love him for life, Zac. That’s how I survive. Still no arrest, but my belief remains firm. I have a great relationship with my team of detectives. “Said Hobbs.
For the past four years, Hobbs has taken action within the ward.
“I have made sense of my pain, and I am engaged, I am engaged, serve my son justice through the work I do for him and also to add to voices of violent crime, other families still fighting to seek peace in our community for justice and justice. I want to do everything possible to keep guns out of the wrong hands and to prevent gun violence. I want to help discuss community investment, quality education, community love and infrastructure, as all of these factors contribute to gun violence. I want to be that hope, I know what it feels like when gun violence knocks on your door and leaves you completely lost without knowing which direction to turn. I want to be that person to help give this guidance, show them love and be that light, ”Hobbs said.
Hobbs visits the spot where her son was killed several times a week.
“At least every two or three days, I never go seven days without coming here,” Hobbs said.
Carrie Hall is Maurice’s aunt and a local law enforcement officer.
“I was in my patrol car and the alarm went off. The dispatcher had started broadcasting that there was shooting on Agave Road. As a cop we have a lot of time, we hear the sound of the police and we hear shootings, but this one was different, something about that call was pulling my heart, I felt it was different, it was someone I knew who was me interested and I had to come to the scene, ”said Hall.
Hall came to Hobbs at the location along Agave Road today, four years and a week after Maurice’s murder.
“If I come here today, I’ll still tear my heart apart, just like four years ago. It couldn’t be easier, it couldn’t be easier. To me, I think it’s more personal, being a black woman and having my nephew murdered on the streets of Jacksonville, I take it more personal, ”Hall said.
Hall said it was time for a change.
“Wherever I want change in our community, I want responsible gun ownership. I think if the community gets as angry as we do, as families with violence, we can make a difference in Duval County, ”she said.
Miles away, on Jacksonville’s Eastside, Kim Varner Sr. stands at the point where his then 25-year-old son Kim Varner Jr., also known as Desi, took his last breath in September 2015.
“He was running this way and trying to get behind the car,” said Varner, a retired JSO officer with 26 years of service, 18 of whom were spent in narcotics.
“They took my best friend from me, my oldest boy was my best friend,” said Varner.
Today he takes to the streets to encourage people to lay down their arms.
“I go through the streets to honor my son. I walk the streets. I lost a son in the cemetery, now I’ve lost one in prison so I’m in a really bad place right now. I miss my two boys, ”said Varner. “You need people to hit the block. I don’t need any money from the mayor. We have all these churches in the hood, there are a lot of churches in every black neighborhood. We have a lot of liquor stores, but we have a lot of churches. If these ministers get out of these churches and start walking these streets, that will help right there. “
The voices of the streets cannot pray bullets away and pray through their feet in hopes of putting an end to the gun violence.
Hobbs and Varner work with various groups across Jacksonville that promote prevention and intervention in ending gun violence.
Hobbs’ murder remains unsolved.
Varner said the people who killed his son were victims of gun violence themselves. He said you stay at large.
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