Hundreds filed in and out of Gamble Funeral Home Thursday night to pay respects for the two men who died in shootings on Cottage Street and Lewis Street last weekend.
The deaths of K.C. Torian, 27, and DeOliver Coleman, 23 left many outside the funeral home speechless and wondering how things could have reached this point.
“The streets aren’t safe anymore,” Stephanie Steele, a cousin of Torian’s, said outside of the funeral home as her eyes welled up.
To many, the recent shootings are just a more visible example of problems that have plagued Hopkinsville for too long.
“The community needs to open their eyes to the violence,” Marcilla Majors said outside the funeral home.
She said the drugs and violence have both gotten out of hand and she hopes people see this event and realize that something needs to be done and the guns need to be gotten rid of.
“Guns only lead to one thing,” Majors said. “Death.”
Hopkinsville police officer Julius Catlett, a Hoptown native raised on Durrett Avenue, said he has seen too many situations like this and that he desperately wants to find a way to stem the tide.
“I’m bold enough to come forward and make a desperate plea to young black African-Americans to stop the violence,” Catlett said. “Stop the gun play, because I’ve seen this too many times.”
Catlett, who also preaches at Durrett Avenue Baptist Church, said he knows he will likely be heavily criticized for speaking about “black on black” crime, but said there is too much at stake to keep quiet any longer.
He said the police are trying to do more community oriented policing and be more proactive than reactive to deal with the problems on the street.
“Instead of you seeing us out patrolling, waiting for something to happen, we actually get out and talk to kids on the basketball court before crime happens,” Catlett said.
He encouraged people with problems to approach people like him, neighbors or teachers with their problems before resorting to violence.
Despite whatever new tactics the police try, the fact is that drugs, gangs and violence still seem to maintain a vice grip on Hopkinsville.
He said while the police are trying to fight crime, their hands are often tied by bureaucracy and a legal system that can see a drug dealer arrested in the early afternoon and freed in time for dinner.
He called on black male adults to help give advice to youths. He also asked that members of the community of all kinds, including neighbors, teachers and preachers play an active role in the fight against crime, including outside of the classroom or church services. He noted the old saying that “it takes a village to raise a child,” and said it still rings true today.
He said when he was growing up, neighbors would step in when he misbehaved, but things have changed since then.
“Every mother was my mother, every father was my father,” Catlett said. “We’ve gotten away from that concept, ‘the village.’ We need to bring it back.”
He said there are a lot of people trying to make excuses, but some kind of serious action has to be taken by the community as a whole to combat the growing problems of drugs and violence, or else last weekend’s scene will be seen over and over again.
“Excuse, excuse, excuse,” Catlett said. “With all these excuses going on — more funerals, more funerals, more funerals.”
CHRIS GARDNER can be reached at 887-3226 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.