CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — A deadly mass shooting precisely three years ago on Beatties Ford Road sparked a movement for change.
The City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County brought in a national resource, the non-profit Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), to start an anti-violence initiative.
The workers in YAP’s Alternatives to Violence or ATV program are tied to the job because Charlotte is their home. Almost all of them grew up along Beatties Ford Road, and one sees this as his calling, a promise he made in prison.
“I wasn’t a good person,” said Juan Hall, an ATV member.
We all walk different paths coming from many places.
“I come from a broken household,” said Hall.
Hall doesn’t mind if people know: he went down the wrong road.
“I promised myself, and to the Lord, I prayed when I was incarcerated that if I get a second chance,” Hall said. “I was going to do right.”
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Hall’s walk of redemption is along the road where he struggled decades ago, Beatties Ford Road, where the odds are against kids.
“A lot of people can talk to a kid but never been through their struggle,” said Hall.
He’s part of a group born out of violence, including a deadly June day in 2020 when over 180 rounds were fired at a block party with nearly 400 people.
Four people were killed.
“That was terrible, it was terrible,” said Bernetta Powell, who owns West End Seafood with her husband on the road.
They’re known as the ‘Beatties Ford 4,’ Jamaa Cassell, Christopher Gleaton, Jr., Kelly Miller, and Dairyon Stevenson.
Their names are memorialized, and their killers are still out there.
“That would mean a whole lot if they could solve that case,” said Powell.
Hall’s group, ATV, is working.
“We just keep walking, talking to people, of course,” said Leondra Garrett, ATV’s site supervisor.
ATV is connecting the community.
“I’ve been able to get a couple of employees through them, and they’ll come in and say, ‘You know anybody needing help?” said Powell.
The non-profit comprises outreach workers and violence interrupters, sometimes called to crime scenes.
“We were off, and then we got the call from someone in the community,” said Garrett of a recent call out.
They show up to disrupt.
“Sometimes you’ll hear something, sometimes you won’t,” said Garrett.
They have an ear to the people.
“You have to be tied to these communities,” said Garrett.
They have an eye on the streets.
“We get a second chance to do right,” said Hall.
They want to do right by business owners like Powell.
She gets emotional just talking about growing up in the area and making it.
“It makes me feel good; it hits me right here,” said Powell pointing to her heart.
One day they might get justice for the ‘Beatties Ford 4.’
Even if they don’t, Hall has already kept people from taking the path he once took.
“Like I tell people, I didn’t get arrested; I got rescued from myself,” said Hall. “You make yourself a better person, and once you do that, you can live.”
UNC-Charlotte’s Urban Institute studied the effectiveness of the Alternatives to Violence program in its first year.
Researchers found a sharp drop in gun-related homicides on Beatties Ford Road compared with similar neighborhoods that do not have the program.
Next week, Charlotte city staff will ask the city council to approve funding to start two more Alternatives to Violence programs, one on West Boulevard and another on Nations Ford Road.