Local pastor "from the streets" pleads to stop city's violence - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Local pastor "from the streets" pleads to stop city's violence

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

As part of the city's Violence Reduction Initiative, city leaders host "call-ins," a meeting used to reach gang members and encourage them to turn their lives around.

Two Channel 3 reporters were invited to Thursday night's call-in.

The identity of gang members who attend a call-in is kept confidential. No video recordings, cell phone use, or note-taking is allowed during the process.
    
One of Thursday night's more powerful speakers was once surrounded by the "gang life" himself.  Pastor Ron King hopes he can use his troubled past to connect with those who now need his help.

"If you speak to the gang member, they don't hear you, but if you speak to the person that's inside that people really don't reach deep down and touch, they'll perk up a little," Pastor King said.

Pastor King stopped selling drugs and chose to start fresh 20 years ago after the birth of his son.
    
When King heard about the city's latest murder - a drive-by shooting that killed a 71-year-old man in his own home - he took to Facebook.

"I'm making an appeal to ask where is your child? Because eventually somebody is going to get tired of this and you're going to be burying your own child," he says in the video.

The video has been viewed nearly 10,000 times. He hopes parents are listening.

"And we're always talking about what the white man is doing and what other people are doing when we are allowing our kids to do whatever they want to, because we don't have an interest in their lives," he adds in the video.

King asked those same questions of a group of gang members at Thursday night's call-in. His message was clear.

"If they stay in the gang there are only two options, death or jail, that's it."

Often times when gang violence claims a life, the John P. Franklin Funeral Home is where people gather to say goodbye.

"It's startling, it's trauma, it really is trauma," said Cheryl Key.

Key says families of younger victims are left with questions.

"In the cases where the life has ended abruptly and violently, it is a lot more difficult. A lot more difficult," Key said.

Pastor King says he's tired of attending funerals, and is hoping young people will know there is a way out.  

"It'll never stop, until they choose to get out of it. and it is a choice," King said, "They have to find a reason to live."

King spoke at the 9th call-in since the VRI program started back in March 2014.

There were 30 members of a group or gang present.
    
Since the first call, nearly 200 members have attended.
    
Out of those who have attended, 48 have been arrested for a crime since the first call-in.

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