Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Wichita NAACP Youth Council meets with City Leaders to address Police response to violence

On November 21st, the Kappa Leadership League sponsored a party on the campus of Wichita State University. The party was intended to be a "coming-out" event for the newest inductees into the Leadership Organization. Around two hundred 14 through 17 year olds were in attendance.

At one point, a fight broke out within th building which was quickly stopped. However, as the youth who were involved were exiting the building, they began to fight again in the stairwell. At this point, campus police decided to shut the party down and send everyone home. Police started moving all of the students into the parking lot.

At one point, gunshots were heard coming from the parking lot. WSU Police are now investigating an officer who reportedly fired their weapon at a vehicle from which additional shots may have also been fired.

Once the shooting began, the frightened crowd of 14 through 17 year olds began running back towards the building, trying to get away from the gunfire in the parking lot. But the Campus Police were still posted at the building forcing the High School students out into the Parking lot.

Because these were High school students, most of them did not have cars and had no way to get home. The party was stopped an hour before it was scheduled to end so most of the students had to wait for rides, but virtually none felt safe waiting around in a parking lot where they've just heard gunshots and so many left to wander through the neighborhoods at 11pm while waiting for family members.

Last Tuesday, members of the Wichita NAACP Youth Council met with City Manager Bob Layton and Deputy Police Chief Tom Stoltz. Representing the youth were Kyron Cox (President of the Wichita NAACP Council and President of the Kappa Leadership League), Isaiah Myles (First Vice President of the Wichita NAACP Youth Council), Kendall Graham (NAACP Youth Council Secretary), Jowonia Bowen, Kelsie Graham, and Amani Myles (President of the Kansas State NAACP Youth Conference).

The Youth stressed the fact that they were not seeking to excuse bad behavior and that they understood that the ultimate responsibility for the events that evening was with the bad actors at the party. But they also wanted to express their concerns about policy; namely the fact that children, without cars or a way to exit, were being pushed into a parking lot where gunshots were being fired. The youth also sought to explore ways in which event organizers and the City can better coordinate to avoid these types of incidents in the future.

The investigation into the incident is still ongoing and the youth will continue to meet with the other involved agencies. And they will also begin working to create a dialogue within the community and among their peers about stopping the violence.

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