Community donations will create Witness Protection Program in Ch - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Community donations will create Witness Protection Program in Chattanooga

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

Following the murder of 26-year-old Chattanooga mother Bianca Horton, two Chattanooga community leaders urged Mayor Andy Berke to create a witness protection program for the city.

Horton was expected to testify against the man accused of shooting her then one-year-old daughter, Zoey in 2015. 

Bishop Kevin Adams and Dr. Charles Mitchell, Co-Chairs of the Mayor’s Citizen Safety Coalition, issued a statement that reads:

Today there are four children without their mother. Bianca Horton, mother of four, was killed yesterday.  In a few weeks she was to testify in the shooting of her infant daughter.  This cycle of violence is unacceptable.
 
Bianca was standing up to stop violence.  It's clear both the city and us the community must all do more to protect and stand with community members like her.  Someone willing to stand up to violence needs protection, and we must all find ways to help.   
 
Earlier today we asked Mayor Berke to establish a Witness Protection & Victim Assistance Fund to help make resources available to protect witnesses and victims.  He has agreed, and in the days to come we will be working with anyone willing to help coordinate better protection and support for witnesses willing to stand up to violence.

Channel 3 is learning the federal government offers a witness protection program for its federal cases, but in Chattanooga there is no state program, or local program, to protect witnesses who are willing to testify.

After Bianca Horton's death, co-chairs of the Citizen's Safety Committee want to change that.

"You know, you watch television and you hear about witness protection programs and all these things, I guess you just assume," said Bishop Kevin Adams.

Bishop Adams had no idea Bianca Horton's life was in danger.
    
He's known Horton since she was a young girl, sitting in the pews of Olivet Baptist Church with her family.

When Bishop Adams was told she might have been killed because she cooperated with police, he decided to step up to make a change.

"She was doing what was asked of her," he said, "You know we ask people to come forward if they know of a crime, if they know of somebody."
    
Bishop Adams and Brainerd High School Asst Principal Dr. Charles Mitchell took their concerns to the Mayor's office.
    
Mayor Berke agreed to help and said even though there are some actions being taken to help witnesses, more should be done.

"In the case of Ms. Horton we had the security detail picking her up and dropping her off, we had people helping her along the way, what we need to do is broaden that support," Mayor Berke said.

Mayor Berke said Horton stepped up and did the right thing, agreeing to testify against Cortez Sims.
    
Sims, 18, is scheduled to stand trial in September for murder and the shooting that injured Horton's daughter.

"She has testified and her testimony is recorded in a way that is going to keep that case going forward," Berke said.

But soon there will be a donation fund to help others like Horton be safe and taken care of.
    
So Horton's death doesn't intimidate anyone else from doing what's right.

"If anything if she was willing to stand, I think it ought to make us stand even more," Bishop Adams said, "I don't think that we back up, that we sit down, that her death should be in vain."

The Witness Protection and Violence Assistance Fund will go toward transportation, relocation, and any kind of protection needed for witnesses and victims in the community.

"We're looking for this to be driven by the community. Not to be driven by the Mayor's office, not to be driven by Chief Fletcher and the police department we're looking for common citizens to step up and help us find ways to combat these issues," Dr. Charles Mitchell said.

Anyone can donate to this witness protection fund once it's up and running. It is expected to be set up within the next few days.
    
The Mayor's office has already been receiving calls from people who want to help.

Here's how to help:

  1. Contribute to help Bianca's family at their GoFundMe page - Community members are rallying together to help the family. Join us in pitchingin: https://www.gofundme.com/263saazd
  2. Take our Community Questionnaire - We have to create an environment where it's safe to help make our community safe - we need yourhelp, and ideas. Please take our questionnaire to help inform community leaders and advocates working to find solutions to make Chattanooga a safe community for everyone: http://connect.chattanooga.gov/safe/ideas/

No child and no family should suffer as this and too many of our other families have. Overcoming these challenges is too big for any one organization or person - we must do it together. Please join us at chattanooga.gov/safe.”

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