INDIANAPOLIS — Sunday was no day of peace for Indianapolis teenagers hoping to avoid gun violence.
The bloodshed began Saturday night when a 17-year-old boy and a 15-year-old girl were found suffering gunshot wounds in a car at Willard Park on East Washington Street.
At midnight, IMPD was called to the 600 block of East Dudley Avenue where one 15-year-old allegedly shot another 15-year-old leading to an arrest.
Three hours later, Cumberland Police found an 18-year-old wounded at North Munsie and Welland Streets.
It was just after dawn when the body of a 16-year-old boy was discovered outside an apartment building on the city’s westside in the 800 block of Chapelwood Drive.
Within eleven hours the lives of six people, 18 years and younger, had been impacted by gunfire in Indianapolis.
”Guns make a coward a cowboy and that’s what we’re living in now,” said Anthoney Hampton of the Brightwood Community Center. ”Guns are a hot topic now. Once they passed a law where 18-year-olds can legally possess a gun, 18-year-olds generally hang around with 15- to 18-year-olds. Used to be Fortnight. Now it’s guns.”
Hampton runs a pair of basketball leagues on the east side as alternatives to running the streets.
”We run them on Thursday nights and Friday nights, two of the most violent gun nights in the city so far this year. We try to keep them busy, give them something to do,” Hampton said.
So far this year, seven people 18 and younger have died of gunshot wounds in Indianapolis, more than on this date in the last three years when the city recorded an average of 27 firearms fatalities in that same age range.
“We’re on pace to shatter that record again this year,” Hampton said. “So it’s not a surprise to me. Shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone else.”
Those numbers are no surprise to Travis Jefferson either, coach of the Dribble Inc. team “The Kings”, who spends his weekends coaching teen ballers to become successes on the court and not defendants in court.
”Just to have kids that we have coming here on Sundays and give them something positive to do around positive people, it kind of puts them in a different aspect where they know that they’d rather do something positive than do something dumb. So that’s the biggest success…just keep them out of streets, keeping them out of trouble,” Jefferson said.
Jefferson said in eleven years he’s lost some ballplayers to gun violence.
”One of the biggest heartaches for the kids that I coached from the time he was seven years old and now he’s sitting in prison and it hurt me to the fact that if he would have stayed with us, he wouldn’t have been there,” Jefferson said. ”They’re products of their environment, so, if they grow up in a neighborhood where gunplay is fascinated and being a gangster is fascinated, that’s what they’re gonna imitate. But when they come in here, I have guys from all aspects of life where they know that it’s better to be successful with an education and doing something positive versus being successful and being on the street and having street cred. So, once they come in here, we drop that.”
There may not be another stretch of street in Indianapolis with more churches per block than Dr. Andrew J. Brown Junior Avenue on the east side where when the congregations let out on Sunday, another type of worship and preaching goes on inside the JT Hill Center.
”Basketball gyms are like churches, the coaches are mentors. We can gather the flock and then we can spread the message,” said Hampton. “These gyms are priceless to the community and to the people that come into the community and pour into these children and young men.”
For more information on Sunday and alternative basketball leagues, log on to indy-pal.org; brightwoodcc.org; or, bgcindy.org.